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Four store concepts that take retail to a whole new level

  • Opinion
  • August 24, 2015
  • Francesca Nicasio
Four store concepts that take retail to a whole new level

When you’re selling products that can be found elsewhere (and at lower prices) you need to be able to connect with shoppers in unique and memorable ways.

There are various ways to accomplish this, depending on your store. But ultimately it boils down to building shopping environments and experiences that stick. 

In this post, we’ll take a look at a few brands that are doing a great job at creating compelling retail experiences. Hopefully, their examples will give you some ideas and inspiration on how you can set your own business apart. 

Johnny Cupcakes – the world’s first T-shirt bakery

Johnny Earle, founder of clothing store Johnny Cupcakes, didn’t want to be just another T-shirt store. As he told Forbes, “We have so many choices… I always ask myself, what are the ways a complete stranger would talk about my business? What would get them to talk about my idea? I want to recreate that excited feeling I used to get at Christmas. I want people to feel like kids again.” 

And that’s where the concept of a “T-shirt bakery” came in. When Johnny expanded into physical retail, he made sure that his store didn’t look like a run-of-the-mill apparel shop, so he and his dad created a shop that looked and felt like a bakery. 

T-shirts were displayed in vintage industrial refrigerators and baking racks. And instead of typical plastic or paper bags, Johnny Cupcakes packages products in signature pastry boxes. The shop even smells like frosting.

Their first store was so successful that today, all Johnny Cupcakes stores (or should I say bakeries) follow the same concept. 

Needless to say, people are finding these bakeries fascinating. Customers are raving about the in-store experience and many of them take photos of the products, packaging, and the location.

“Our bakery aesthetic is so convincing, that customers are usually convinced they are walking into a bakery expecting to get a cupcake,” Johnny says on his website. “My inner-jokester still gets a kick out of fooling hungry shoppers. Cupcake or not, customers usually leave with a t-shirt or a great story.” 

Samsung Studio

My friends and I unexpectedly came across Samsung Studio when we were making our way to The Grove, in Los Angeles. As an iDevice user, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed with the location, as I figured it’ll just be one of those places where you’ll hear sales pitches as you demo Samsung products. 

I was wrong.

Yes, Samsung Studio lets guests play around with the devices, and you can even rent out their gadgets and take them home. But the space is so more than that.

Samsung has truly made an effort to appeal to all five senses by offering experiences and activities that allow guests to not only see how the products work, but actually enjoy them.

For instance, Samsung Studio has virtual reality room where you can try on the brand’s VR gear and get transported to a whole new world. It also has a "Design Station" where you can design your own tank top, tote bag, or cap. It even features a “home” area where you can see how different appliances work, and it has juice bar where you can get free pressed juices based on your answers to their juice quiz.

Samsung Studio has effectively but the brand in my radar. And while I didn’t take home a new Samsung device when I left the location, I’d be lying if I said that the brand didn’t make a positive impression on me that day. So much so that me and my companions spent a lot of time talking about our experience, long after we walked out of the store. 

Bonobos Guideshops

Guideshops make clothes shopping so much easier for men. Bonobos addresses the touch-feel gap that shoppers may feel when shopping online, by letting customers try on the products in a physical location. 

It’s important to note though that these Guideshops don’t function like a normal retail store. Each customer gets one-on-one attention from a knowledgeable associate (known as “Guides"). These Guides walk shoppers through Bonobos’ collections to help them find the perfect fit (while serving beer). And once the customer decides on something they like, the Guide will place an order and ship it off.

In other words, you can take home the items that you’ve tried on at the store. Guideshops function more as showrooms, where you can touch and feel products, and when you decide to make a purchase, the Guide will arrange for it to be shipped to your home or office. This may be a little off-putting for some consumers, but the majority of people who visit these shops actually enjoy the experience.

And judging by the number of Guideshops that Bonobos is opening, the concept seems to be working well for the brand.

Retail kiosks and ATMs

Some merchants are leveraging kiosks to make products more accessible. One great example of this can be seen in Sprinkles Cupcakes, which has “cupcake ATMs” at its stores.

Thanks to these nifty machines, people craving for cupcakes in the wee hours of the morning don’t have to wait until a Sprinkles store opens. They can just head to the nearest ATM machine, swipe their card and get their cupcake fix.

See how it works below: 


Another merchant implementing a similar concept is Benefit Cosmetics, which has set up beauty kiosks at airports all over the world. We all know that airport shopping is quite unimaginative. Airport gift shops (not to mention the shopping experiences) are pretty much the same wherever you go.

But Benefits Cosmetics found a way to stand out. It separated its products by showcasing them in great-looking kiosks that make airport shopping much more novel and interesting.

And they’re convenient, too. Say you forgot to pack your beauty essentials but don’t have the time to walk into a store and go through shelves of merchandise; thanks to Benefit, you can just walk up to a kiosk and get your hands on a product as easily as buying soda from a vending machine.

Can you name other interesting retail concepts out there? Let us know in the comments.

 Francesca Nicasio is a retail expert and blogger for Vend, an iPad-based point-of-sale software that helps merchants manage and grow their business. This article was republished from the Vend Retail Blog, where Vend talks about trends, tips, and other cool things that can help stores increase sales and serve customers better.

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