Brick-and-mortar retail has been in limbo as pandemic consumers met their commerce needs online. But fashion brands are embracing new store concepts to come out of Covid-19 stronger and drive personal engagement with shoppers.
Mango, Loeffler Randall and American Field are among the companies looking to capitalize on the desire for unique store experiences. While Mango is opening up a sustainability-driven, tech-enhanced concept strongly influenced by Mediterranean culture and style, luxury women’s footwear and accessories brand Loeffler Randall is opening its first-ever store in New York City’s Soho neighborhood.
And American Field, a marketplace that connects emerging brands and startups via popup events, is now helping burgeoning brands find new floor space with the launch of the AF Spaces digital platform this spring. AF Spaces connects commercial landlords with new tenants, which could quickly fill first-floor vacancies caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mango’s new store image will first arrive in a 15,000-square-foot space in Düsseldorf, Germany, slated to open in March.
With sustainability and energy efficiency as key objectives for Mango, which joined both the Fashion Pact and the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, stores feature energy-efficient lighting and temperature control, as well as a design incorporating sustainable materials such as natural paint. The soon-to-launch store will be located in Dusseldorf’s Kö-Bogen II building, also known as the “green building” for the huge mass of vegetation that covers its façade.
Furthermore, Mango continues to collaborate with Moda re-, collecting used clothing and footwear for their reuse, recycling and energy assessment.
Warm tones and neutral color bases displayed throughout the store merge with traditional, artisanal, sustainable and natural materials, such as ceramic, tufa, wood, marble, esparto grass and leather.
“Through this new store concept, we aim to reflect the essence of the brand,” Jan Rivera, creative and image director of Mango, said in a statement. “Mediterranean culture forms part of all we do as a brand and those of us who are behind the brand, so we want to approach our customers with this philosophy.”
To help shape the store’s customer experience, including customer-store staff interactions, Mango listened to its Innovation Community, a forum where customers can express their preferences, opinions and expectations regarding the company’s products and business strategies. The retailer has incorporated new services and features, such as a concierge station, a point of reference where the store staff can deal with any requirement customers may have, as well as more spacious fitting rooms and cash desks on all floors.
The Mango store will include a large click-and-collect area, as well as new areas that will display exclusive online collections, which customers can see and try on in the store.
Store staff also now leverage deep learning-powered in-store analytics technology and RFID to implement continuous improvement initiatives relating to item availability, how and where collections are distributed, and in-store browsing.
“Our industry is undergoing a complete transformation, and Mango is too,” said César de Vicente, global retail director for Mango. “The stores have always been a privileged meeting point between customers and our brand, which is why we want to offer customers unique and personalized experiences, supported by technology and omnichannel services in a welcoming environment.”
Mango is opening three U.S. stores as part of its expansion in the first quarter this year.
On Wednesday, Loeffler Randall is slated to open its first store at 10 Prince Street in New York City, marking a strategic shift by the brand to grow its omnichannel retail presence and highlight an expanding range of product categories.
Designed by Poonam Khanna, founder and principal of Unionworks, in collaboration with Loeffler Randall founder and chief creative officer Jessie Randall and her team, the inaugural 625-square-foot Soho location offers an exclusive edit of all Loeffler Randall collections, including shoes, bags, jewelry, accessories and ready-to-wear, housed together for the first time.
“In the 15 years since starting Loeffler Randall, I have always dreamt of having this store,” Randall said in a statement. “I love that we can showcase our brand in 360 degrees and create a warm and welcoming space for our customers. Our customers are like family, and this is the first time we can welcome them into our brand ‘home,’ where they can truly see themselves not only in our designs, but also in our environment.”
Co-founder and CEO Brian Murphy, Randall’s husband, highlighted the company’s initial success with LoefferRandall.com, which spurred the decision to open a new store.
“As a New York-based brand with a robust New York customer base, this dedicated retail location adds a valuable brand touchpoint, particularly with shoes as a core offering,” Murphy said.
To create the space, Loeffler Randall tapped Khanna, a frequent creative collaborator also responsible for the brand’s Soho office and showroom. Together, she and the Loeffler Randall team focused on spatial simplicity and an edited palette that felt “calm, warm and concise,” the brand said.
The store’s signature details include curving walls, and a built-in sofa under a curved archway that divides the space into two distinct zones.
The back of the store is lined with ripple-fold drapery panels that evoke Loeffler Randall’s iconic, handmade pleats, first created for the brand’s best-selling heeled sandal, the Penny.
“The store is like a little jewel box,” said Khanna. “It’s small, but we feel like we’ve filled it with precious little moments, like gems strung together on a delicate, yet imperceptible thread.”
The panels’ materials include lush velvet, soothing plaster and natural wood in inspiring shapes and rich colors. The blush tones of the brand’s signature palette are seen in the fabrics for the drapery and sofa. The space is finished in plaster textures that evoke handmade ceramic finishes, with Chilewich and Radiant Woven carpets and fabric petal Georges light fixtures. A Colleen Herman art piece hangs on the wall, and Le Feu De L’eau candles in Lemon Grass Rosemary burn as the store’s signature scent.
The Loeffler Randall store won’t exclusively carry its own brands—it will also carry wares from other brands and makers the company admires. With the launch, the boutique will include hand-woven bracelets by Mayan Hands, brass candle holders by M+A, overalls from The Hey Gang and other merchandise.
The store also offers reusable Loeffler Randall cloth shopping bags that are inspired by a quilt-like design, and sewn from remnant brand fabric.
American Field’s launch of the AF Spaces digital platform features a curated collection of fashion and lifestyle brands alongside nationwide retail real estate listings, with the goal of helping landlords to find and fill retail spaces.
The platform is spun out of AF’s original business, launched in 2012 to revitalize retail by bringing brands and landlords together for pop-=up markets and longer-term branded storefronts. The company says its popups have drawn more than 100,000 visitors to date.
“The pandemic has devastated the commercial real estate industry. But it has also provided opportunities for a new wave of brands to experience the growth physical retail can bring,” Mark Bollman, CEO and founder of American Field, said in a statement. “Since its founding, American Field has provided retailers access to marketplaces nationwide to grow their audience and increase their brand awareness. SPACES is a natural extension of the AF value proposition solving landlord vacancy and providing a platform for brands to grow. As a brand founder myself, I know what’s important, because I’ve been in that position. This unique perspective enables us to connect brands with the best spaces based on their needs.”
AF Spaces hosts a curated network of 2,500 brands alongside a nationwide network of landlords who own millions of square feet of prime first floor real estate. The platform offers brands the ability to test drive storefronts through short-term agreements. Thus far, AF Spaces has helped landlords in New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Atlanta, Denver and Houston find new retail tenants.
The rotating popups operate within the dark spaces until the landlord secures a long-term tenant. In one example, AF Spaces has already helped Midtown Equities successfully place NYC-based leather jacket and motorcycle apparel brand Schott into an empty space at its Empire Stores marketplace in Brooklyn’s Dumbo district. Mehul Patel, the chief operating officer of Midtown Equities, “couldn’t be happier” with the experience of working with AF.
Jason Schott, chief operating officer, said the company jumped at the opportunity upon learning about the platform. Schott referred to the Brooklyn location as “a store that under the traditional drawn out negotiation process, would simply not have been possible.”
While the retailer has three flagships already operating in the Nolita district of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Schott said the Brooklyn collaboration has reignited the company’s interest in expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint again and has “enabled the most streamlined store opening process we’ve ever had.”