Uncertainty and ‘state of flux’ have long been terms synonymous with the retail landscape,

with seemingly untouchable retail giants biting the dust and making dramatic, pantomime exits at frequency. The message that retail desperately needs a reincarnation is ever clear, and out of the ashes of the high street’s victims, only those who are able to think clearly about their audience’s needs will succeed.

While some might see this challenge as insurmountable, others will see it as an opportunity to shake things up, inject a new lease of life into their brand, improve awareness and drive revenue. It isn’t easy, but we know that those who do it well will reap the rewards well into the future.

Here, we show how long-time innovators, Apple, are reinventing their stores for the New Retail generation.

Retail redefined

Enter long-time leaders of innovation, Apple, led by their Senior VP of Retail, ex-Burberry Angela Ahrendts. Ahrendts has a reputation for challenging and developing the traditional retail format (see Burberry) and has brought those same pin sharp skills over to Apple.

Describing the retail arm as “Apple’s largest product”, Ahrendts has championed and applied the same pioneering and innovative level of design and imagination into the  brand’s retail spaces as we have long seen applied to traditional Apple products. As she describes it, the store is a product itself, and “the hardware is the architecture of the store, the software is what happens inside the store”.

So what does this way of thinking mean for the store experience?

today at Apple

Today at Apple

As well as the already-impressive physical design of Apple stores (hardware) Ahrendts focuses on the environment and atmosphere that exists inside their premises (software), which under her lead are combined to produce new in-store experiences: cultural and educational hybrids.

Instead of trying in vain to compete with the digital market, this model focuses on humanity, interaction and experience, Ahrendts says, “our whole concept was: How does the store become more like a town square? …almost a community hub”. We now see stores that are multi-faceted destination spaces, where artists come to give talks to a live audience, and sales assistants are now ‘Creative Pros’ whose role goes far beyond traditional customer service, instead serving to educate, inspire and collaborate.

The culmination of this transformation is a programme called Today at Apple, where each day, people are able to sign up to any number of free creative and technical tutorials on, for example, music production, digital photography or computer programming.

Apple have just announced, for example, that they will be participating in the EU Code Week, with over 2,000 Today at Apple sessions, and over the next year. Over 75,000 attendees have taken part in more than14,000 coding sessions at Apple stores across Europe in the past year.

today at apple

Today at Apple presentation

Experience and community as currency  

It’s fair to say that it’s going well for Apple—but they’re not alone.

Samsung 837 egg

Samsung 837

Samsung are also turning their stores into brand platforms. In the same was as Apple, the architecture of the store is the beginning of the story, with the store’s ‘software’ a more humanised, tangible experience-based strategy.

Visual experiences, and even music concerts from big acts like Luke Bryan take centre stage, and if you think that booking Bryan was a waste of money, what about the one million streams the concert drew online? And the store is so visually striking for a reason, Samsung is hoping visitors to its stores will take photo after photo and share them online with the rest of the world.

Samsung 837 cafe

Samsung 837 cafe

Carving a new way forward

This idea of retail as an experience is something that CADA are dedicated to applying to projects current and future, we see it as a necessity, and an opportunity for our team to develop new Interior 3D concepts and think outside the box, graduating on from the traditional retail experience into something more exciting and humanised.

Take our latest flagship project, Ichiba, Europe’s largest Japanese food hall, which combines traditional retail with dining and regular edutainment programmes, like periodical sake tasting classes.


Ichiba, Westfield London

With digital eroding the high street, it’s time to be brave. Speak with us to learn how we might help your brand carve a new way forward.

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