Conceptual store


Shall we perhaps change our attitude to a dialogue between the store and its customer? Perhaps we are slightly lagging behind the times to realize that the Russian customer of today can no longer be motivated by discounts alone when committing to a purchase? However, if the discounts are not the crucial factor, than what is? How can the customer be attracted? How can they be persuaded into making a purchase?  What is the best way to ensure that the customer comes back to you again after a single purchase?

Both USA and Europe have already found the solution to the questions above. The consumers there are keen on visiting concept stores. They are equally keen on spending their hard earned cash in such stores... Setting up and running a concept store is not a very common practice in Russia yet, but the start has already been made.

Today we are talking about the specifics of a concept store with the famous Italian architecture and interior designer Claudio Stabile.

What is a concept store? What is its appeal?

A concept store is an innovative tool in retail industry.

The first concept stores appeared in the US in the 80-s when many companies set up specialized retail locations where the consumers were able not only to make a purchase but also to submerge themselves into the world as envisaged by the brand. In the process, creators of such stores were guided by the sensitivity or "the sixth sense" of the consumer.  Afterwards, this practice transferred itself over to Europe where it developed further and gained even more success.

A Concept store is a theatre performance staged purely for your product.

This is the place for smart people from all social classes, who are actively participating in modern life trends.



Today concept stores are actively operating in the West, although there is still no single definition widely accepted for them. In my opinion, there are two main conditions that allow us to define the store as a concept one. First, the store should deliver the philosophy and the atmosphere of the company (brand) that this particular retail outlet represents. This delivery (or identification) is ensured by means of a specific colour, shapes, materials that are closely associated with the brand. All of the mentioned components should be repeatedly represented in every retail outlet set up by the brand.



The second necessary condition is the expansion of the store borders that means extending the store functions beyond those of a jewellery retail outlet, in our case. The customer is submerged into a corporate philosophy, and this already exceeds the functionality of a simple purchase transaction. The client becomes the part of the brand, and experiences some degree of personal involvement with it.




The first aspect, which is brand identification through colour, shapes etc., is quite clear. Let's discuss in more detail the second aspect which describes submerging a customer into the corporate philosophy and making them feel personally involved with the brand. What does this mean?

What I mean here is an emotional component in the customer's visit to such a store. Just imagine yourself at your home being visited by your good friends whom you love, and whom you are glad to see. That is exactly how the concept store customers are greeted, as if they are very special guests. The customers are met and immediately surrounded with the domestic atmosphere, i.e. they are offered a comfortable chair, a cup of tea or coffee or some chocolates. They are sincerely (I stress this word out -sincerely!) are enquired about their latest news. Basically, the customers get to being wrapped in a cocoon, being fussed over; they are submerged into a nice relaxing atmosphere. In no way the customers are pressured into making a purchase, they are not pushed (get-what-you-want-and-farewell attitude), and their financial worth is not assessed.  The customer is gladly conversed with (no matter if they are to make a purchase now or will come again); they are made to feel personally welcome within the store walls. They get surrounded with an atmosphere where separating with their money becomes an enjoyable experience.



A concept store touches all senses of a person; it transforms a customer into a consumer, into a subscriber of this particular brand. This is achieved through transforming a simple purchase into the memorable shopping experience.



When made to feel relaxed and important for you, the customer is much more likely to open their wallet. They will not worry about an extra dollar. In other words, at first you give and the customer receives (the emotional component), and only afterwards the customer gives and you receive (the financial component).



Coffee is offered to the customers in many of our stores. But how does this conceptuality reveals itself through the interior design, for example? Who is the target customer of such a store?


A concept store sells not goods but a lifestyle.



Let me give you an example. I often visit furniture stores as part of my work. Not long ago, when travelling in USA, I went into the store to look for a sofa. That's where I bought some candles for my wife and took them to Capri with me being scared to break them. A concept store offers much more than just sofas, clothing or jewellery items. Such store represents some style, a way of life or a mentality. For example, in addition to offering decorative items, the store can lay a table using items of silverware, glassware or chinaware. The walls can carry some pictures to match the interior design and the stock on offer. There can be figurines, designer dolls and perfume bottles standing around. There can be scarves, stoles and ties hanging around. There can be a collection of clothing from a designer who is not necessarily famous, but whose work would definitely be appealing to your target customers. It can be anything! The only requirement is that this "something" should be fashionable, should be associated with the world of finesse, such as jewellery items themselves, and it should relate to the corporate philosophy of the company (brand), that the store represents.



At the same time, the customer should be able to purchase anything displayed as part of the store's interior design, be it a picture from the wall or a silk stole.



By the way, this approach is very popular in Europe. For example, the homeware stores have entire walls and rooms designed, arranged and displayed. Not every human has designing skills, but everybody wants to live surrounded by beauty and comfort. When walking through the store, the customer might like, for example, a display on the wall by the fireplace, or a bedroom arrangement. So, the customer purchases the appealing look as a whole, including all of the items that make this arrangement interesting to them, such as a pair of wall pictures, a bedside rug and dry flowers with the vase they come in. Later, they will recreate this look that they saw and purchased at the store in their own home. A concept jewellery store works the same way.


One can ask about the (target) customers of such retailers. A concept store is also a kind of a social hub. The people who like what's offered by the store come here. These are the people who are willing and can afford to purchase such items (some frequently while others not so frequently). Therefore, the customers are aware that in this store they are in the company of their own kind. Here they can have a conversation over a cup of coffee, discuss the news or the latest jewellery fashion trends. Some European concept stores even have customers fixing up business deals with each other in there.



One can ask about the (target) customers of such retailers. A concept store is also a kind of a social hub. The people who like what's offered by the store come here. These are the people who are willing and can afford to purchase such items (some frequently while others not so frequently). Therefore, the customers are aware that in this store they are in the company of their own kind. Here they can have a conversation over a cup of coffee, discuss the news or the latest jewellery fashion trends. Some European concept stores even have customers fixing up business deals with each other in there.



Nowadays, when everyone is desperately lacking more leisure time, people seek for shopping opportunities that would provide them with entertainment, social outlet and information update. Concept stores provide all these desired aspects of shopping for their customers.


Are you involved in the process of setting up and developing concept stores "from scratch"? Is it perhaps possible to introduce some changes into the existing "usual" setting in order to transform the store into the concept one? Or do we have to take drastic steps of completely demolishing and rebuilding everything  so that:




Typically, all store spaces in Russia are set up in the same manner. In order to be called a concept store, the retail location needs to bring diversity both into its inventory and its design. At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that all this diversity should be united by a single idea. This idea should be reinforced in every small detail; it should be easily read and comprehended by the visitors.  Such diversity gives customers a chance to relax, to unwind; it appeals to them and engages them into experiencing shopping as a process and not just a result driven transaction.   We should remember that the concept store is a place where the customer spends much more time than at an average store. Purchases are made here in a more active manner, and the shopping process itself turns into a memorable event.



I consider a relaxation area as a necessary element of the concept store; such area can be a small cafe or just a room filled with pleasant aromas of an expensive bistro, which are familiar to all people everywhere in the world. This is the place that invokes thoughts of rest, comfortable atmosphere, relaxation and good mood...



Smell generally is a very important aspect for all areas of a concept store. However, blending and selecting the aromas and the design items for the store should be carried out with an utmost professional attention and finesse; otherwise you might get a market-place instead of a refined concept store.



Different goods should be supported by everything that surrounds them, such as items of furniture, design, shapes, lighting, colours... Everything should be appealing to a person; nothing should overload them with garishness or with a confusing richness.



The main idea for a concept store set-up is that the interior design should be there, and at the same time it sort of shouldn't. In other words, it should be there but introduced in such fine details that the customer will have an illusion that there is no interior design at all...




One of the brightest examples of a European concept store is the London Louis Vuitton store (architecture Peter Mariino). Bond Street located Louis Vuitton is an explicit model of a concept store. It is interesting for its unique three level exhibit platform displaying accessories and jewellery by Louis Vuitton. When looking from the street, the huge windows twice the normal size with golden cladding strike the viewer. Store's interior design carries the original works of Gilbert & George, Jeff Koons, Michael Landy. The walls are upholstered with a natural white leather. A glass staircase transverses the whole building from bottom to top.


Single-item exhibit holders display special objects that would be most interesting for the VIP clientele of the concept store. On these premises the customers feel as if they are at the salon surrounded by sofas, small tables and works of art. Also, one can find here a glitzy bar with a list of place -appropriate drinks...


In my opinion, a concept store specifically in Russia can be a successful venture.  This claim is supported by the social and economic effects together with the unique climate and the vast distances. Since transportation itself can present a difficulty in giant cities, many people would be attracted to the idea of visiting a reliable place, where you find a comfortable environment, socializing opportunities and a chance to make an interesting purchase.



What would be an idea for a concept jewellery store in Russia?



Modern consumer is often in need of a rest, a break from stress. What can be more appealing than spending some time in a new beauty-filled environment that positively affects all senses? This is the new environment, where the jewellery items come together with perfume aromas, books, photographs and keepsakes from exotic locations. However, we have to stress out that everything should be based around a single theme, which would be clearly visible throughout all this beauty. Such a theme should be identified individually for each brand.