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  • Owen Arundell

Adidas Carnaby St - Beautiful but Irrelevant

When Adidas announced that it has opened a brand new Originals flagship store on Carnaby Street in Soho the world of LinkedIn went mental.

“An incredible beacon for London celebrating Soho culture” lyrically waxes one person in the comments. “One of the best retail aesthetics” wrote another. And my personal favourite, “Inspired to the max!”

If I asked you not to look at a single picture of the store, but to guess what was included, I reckon you’d get at least half of the “impressive features” right.

Yep – there’s something cool and ‘experiential’ in the store (it’s a pool table)

Yep – it doesn’t just sell product; the shop has a ‘purpose’ (according to Adidas, the store exists to ‘highlight our connection to the fashion, music and art synonymous with the capital)

Yep – it’s a ‘store of the future’ – all concrete and exposed pipes and everything.

Yep – its got a ‘feature moment’ (it’s a giant adidas shoe, with a side portion of other adidas shoes arranged like a tree)

Given that I reckon anyone with half an interest in retail might have guessed the above ingredients would feature in some way, shape or form, one must ask the question…. So what?

Retailers have become obsessed with “store of the future” and “experiential stores” of late, but I’d argue when the result is so blandly obvious – like this one is – how can it be considered ‘the future?’

Lets look at the new shiny adidas store through a different lens for a second:

It’s a ‘flagship store’ – which is kind of marketing code for “money down the toilet” and, I’ll bet, justifying being a commercial drain

It’s on Carnaby Street, during the middle of Covid – which means adidas were committed to the store a long time ago; probably through a long, expensive, contracting process and probably with a lease of many, many years.

I’ll posit that the flagship store is actually a massive, living billboard for (in normal times) millions of tourists and industry bods to come and fawn over.

That’s not only OK, its actually commendable – but let’s call it an advertising activity!

If adidas really do want a ‘flagship’ that represents the ‘store of the future,’ here are some suggestions of what we think it might actually look like:

1. It wouldn’t be on Carnaby Street. Post-Covid, most retail commentators including KPMG and McKinsey agree that the single biggest shift in retail habits will be the trend to stay local and support local. That means that successful stores in the future will live in small town high streets, and be for their local communities, with genuine connection to the people that live and dwell there

2. ‘Experience’ will be accessible. Cool though an art installation look-and-feel is, an ‘experiential’ store of the future will let consumers get involved, feel something, be entertained in the store. Millennials and Gen Z’s and all those that come after are participatory creatures, used to getting the feel for things in about 0.8 seconds. Stores of the future wont just look cool and different, they’ll feel it too, and invite customers to come on a sensory journey to get the full brand 360.

3. Stores will be flexible! In most instances, this will at least be seasonally-changing; but we know that most ‘stores’ will actually need to be leaving, breathing, changeable things. Consumer tastes and fashions, the world of consumption we live in, increased digitisation – its all changing so quickly that retail needs to be nimble, adapt and change at the blink of an eye. What a customer wants to buy, or experience in store, is unlikely to be the same next year as it is today – and stores need to evolve at a pace never known before. This also means they should be built with this in mind – big, expensive, bells-and-whistles builds are not only irresponsible (and will rightly attract the ire of an increasingly conscious consumer), they make it impossible to continually change in a commercially or operationally sensible way.

So a plea to Adidas, and all the other ‘cool’ brands out there; lets really think about what a ‘store of the future’ is, before we appropriate the concept into irrelevance!

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