Company News • 10.12.2012

In-store shops are making a comeback

Bloomingdale's and JCPenney revive the trend

Bloomingdales has recently opened an in-store Gucci shop at its subsidiary on...
Bloomingdale's has recently opened an in-store Gucci shop at it's subsidiary on New York's 59th street.
Source: Bloomingdale's

Back in the 1980s and ’90s, Bloomingdale’s in New York had a Ralph Lauren shop and a Donna Karan shop. That old notion - of a store within a store - has been made new again, with JCPenney the most prominent example. In July, it unveiled the first three of its in-store shops and is adding two to three every month. Its goal: By 2015, each store will be a collection of 100 shops.

The idea of in-store designer shops when Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan were just cutting their teeth was born of necessity, said Deb Camarota, creative director at retail design firm Fitch. “These were young and up-and-coming designers at the time,” Camarota said. “They didn’t have the resources, being small and new, to take real estate. At the same time, the department stores wanted to be nimble and showcase new concepts. So it was a mutually beneficial endeavor.”

Turning away from "clean" store design

While the idea worked well, store design fashions changed, said retail consultant Aaron Spiess, co-CEO of branding consultancy Big Red Rooster. “Through the last decade, a lot of stores paid more attention to their host brands and really focused on in-store experience and cleaning up, simplifying their environment,” Spiess said. “  ‘ Clean store’ became the mantra.” Now, times have changed again, and the idea of multiple brands under one roof has returned with a slight twist.

Old ideas made new again

“What we’re seeing is a very prestige idea from 20 years ago at all levels now,” Camarota said, including the middle-range retailers and big-box chains.The idea is seemingly everywhere — including Macy’s and its Toys R Us and Finish Line shops, and Saks with its Chanel and Louis Vuitton shops — all the way to the other end of the spectrum, with Walmart and Target chiming in. Their Apple offerings are an example.

Maintaining a brand image

“It’s across a lot of different categories,” Spiess said. “You’re seeing stranger bedfellows coming together. ... They’re creating these oases inside of the environment that enables them to tell better stories.” “Telling stories” is retail jargon for creating or maintaining a brand image, and in-store shops are great ways for designers and manufacturers to do it. “Manufacturers love the idea,” Spiess said. “It gives them much better control of brand presentation.” For consumers, the in-store shops are a great thing, too, Camarota said.

Making good design available

“It’s actually a lot of fun as a consumer to shop these in-store shops,” Camarota said. “Now, you have certain retailers partnering with very high-end designers who have been in business 50, 60 years and they do a collection together. Maybe they’ll choose a more affordable fabric, but their good design suddenly becomes available to everyone.”

Re-emphasizing the total experience

How long will the in-store shop be around this time? Probably quite a while. Retailers who are concerned about “showrooming” - the practice of researching a product in a store and then using a smartphone or tablet to comparison shop for a better price - are focusing on giving their stores a unique flavor and re-emphasizing the total experience. And such uniqueness is something that in-store shops can offer in spades. “How do we surprise and delight our customers?” Camarota said. “These things really do that job."

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