GDR NRF Newsletter February 2018

Ikea primes Sheffield residents ahead of store opening with citywide festival

IKEA staged a two-week series of food, art, community and family installations throughout Sheffield to announce its arrival in the Yorkshire city.

The Wonderful Everyday tour gave locals the opportunity to “experience the little things in life that make the everyday more wonderful” ahead of the brand’s first store opening there.

IKEA cushions were placed on public benches and onboard tram carriages. A branded Fika cart with complimentary hot drinks and freshly baked cinnamon buns and a hot dog stand moved around the city, and potted plants and flowers spelled out the message: “The Wonderful Everyday” in the city's South Street Park, mimicking the famous Hollywood sign.

IKEA also transformed the waiting room at the tram station into a reading lounge, which included literary gems from local authors. A silent auction was held there with proceeds going to the local Bluebell Woods Hospice charity.

IKEA artworks were placed throughout the city including a peregrine falcon sculpture made from thousands of allen keys created by local artist Jason Heppenstall.

The events ran from 11-28 September, with the store opening on the final day of the tour.

IKEA Sheffield store manager Garry Deakin said, “The Wonderful Everyday Tour is our way of sharing the excitement and bringing the IKEA philosophy to life in the city. We believe that it’s the little things in life that make us happy and we hope everyone will get to enjoy the events and activities we have planned. By working with the community and some extra-special local talent, we have created a series of unexpected surprises to make people smile and give them a taste of what’s to come once the store opens.”

The Wonderful Everyday tour was a clever way for the furniture retailer to surprise and delight local residents in anticipation of its new store opening

Birkenstock launches touring mobile retail concept

German footwear brand Birkenstock has created a mobile retail space that will tour the world.

Called the Birkenstock Box, the concept was designed by architects Pierre Jorge Gonzalez and Judith Haase. Scheduled to tour selected global retailers, the store will act as a blank space for local artists and creatives to customise, giving the pop-up a unique look in each new location.

Constructed from two converted freight containers, the travelling store is clad in mirrored chrome, almost camouflaging the structure and integrating it into its surroundings. Inside, the vertically corrugated walls are panelled with glass and wood, allowing natural light to enter. The overall impression of the box is that it appears reflective from some angles and translucent from others.

The containers are arranged one on top of the other, connected by an internal staircase. Their positioning is slightly offset, creating a terrace on the upper level.

Launched and currently residing in Berlin, the Box’s first location acts as an extension to the permanent high-end concept store, Andreas Murkudis. Described on the Birkenstock website as “an urban prosthetic element”, the pop-up space extends out from the permanent store into the courtyard. Customers enter the space via the shop by walking down a platform that usually leads to Murkudis’ window display.

With store owners curating the product selection at each location, the Box is intended to act as a temporary urban space that encourages creative communication between artists, retailers and customers.

“Ultimately the Birkenstock Box is about building a neutral creative space, in which the Birkenstock brand meets state-of-the-art retail partners worldwide in a creative dialogue,” said Oliver Reichert, CEO of Birkenstock. “We did not want to slot into these partners’ existing retail structures. Instead, depending on where we place the Box, we make a space where we can meet creatively on neutral ground, where normal, creative exchange is possible.”

In addition to site-specific interiors, each iteration of the Box will have a curated selection of apparel, accessories and lifestyle products from various designers and brands to complement the Birkenstock offering, including limited-edition Birkenstock shoes, exclusive to the location and designed in collaboration with the retail partner.

Uniqlo’s Singapore flagship engages the local community

Uniqlo has put local culture and talent at the heart of its new Singapore flagship.

The three-storey store, its largest in Southeast Asia, is located on the Orchard Road, and it celebrates the style and creativity of this neighbourhood.

The walls of the store are decorated with artwork created by homegrown talent, while a dedicated shop-in-shop sells products from 24 local brands.

Curated in-store displays also provide information about the shop’s immediate surroundings, suggesting other stores to visit or places customers might like to eat and drink.

The brand has also commissioned original music to play in-store. Created and produced by Syndicate, an audio-visual collective and independent record label in Singapore, the music is intended to elevate the feeling of localism and community.

The store will host a calendar of events run by Singaporean creatives featuring a wide range of activities, from calligraphy and poetry writing to flower arranging, that customers can sign up for via the store’s Facebook page.

For the launch of the new store, four local illustrators were commissioned to create limited-edition designs for its shopping bags

Furniture store’s stock is influenced by local online sales

Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba has ventured into the furniture market with its Home Times store in Hangzhou. The store is part of Alibaba’s ‘new retail’ strategy, which aims to offer a more efficient and flexible shopping experience by fusing online and offline services.

More than 20,000 items are available to purchase at the store, including furniture, kitchenware, décor and stationery, but only a smaller curated selection is on display. To make the store truly responsive to the needs of the local community, these products are decided by the best-selling items on Alibaba’s TMall ecommerce site within a five-mile radius. According to the brand, as well as offering a selection of products that are relevant to the needs of local shoppers, it also makes the supply chain more efficient by allowing Alibaba to predict what will be in demand.

Each item has a QR code, which can be scanned to instantly purchase online via Alibaba’s mobile payment service, Alipay. These items are delivered to the customer’s door, but shoppers also have the option to purchase in-store and take items away with them immediately.

Large screen displays on the walls allow customers to shop the wider range of products. They also let shoppers see furniture in a VR home setting. Customers can tap a piece of furniture on the digital display, scan its QR code and purchase it online.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma explained the brand’s approach to retail in a shareholder letter in October. He said, “We believe that this is very much how next-generation commerce will look globally, with large retailers and niche category specialists leveraging technology to provide an integrated service with the consumer at its core.”

Home Times opened in September 2017, with two more set to open in Hangzhou by the end of the year.