Digging the new: Retail concepts

A few weeks ago, Susie Bubble blogged about the ace Norma Kamali service whereby you buy something online and only pay if you decide to keep it. My first thought was ‘what a great service (if a bit trusting).’ When times are tricky in retail it’s good to see someone doing something innovative to entice customers. Little did I realise the service is nothing new. Despite the doubters who scoffed, ‘what a daft idea, people will just take the piss’, it transpires the service has been operating successfully for about 8 years. Another service I read about is that of Dublin boutique, Smock (Unit 5, 20-22 Essex Street West, 8, +353 (1) 613 9000) which has recently instigated a crunch-friendly six-week deposit system to allow customers to reserve items and pay them off gradually. Saving up for things…how retro!

I’ve said it before and I don’t mind saying it again, we need clever ideas in retail if we are to be encouraged to keep the economy afloat. Just wheeling out same-old trends isn’t going to do it anymore. Fantastic Man magazine alerted me to the great concept of Filippa K’s Second Hand store at Hornsgatan 77 in Stockholm which works like a dress agency (take in your old Filippa K clothes and they will give you a percentage of the resale price) while the now-defunct Shop at Maison Bertaux encouraged customer loyalty with its regular 10%-off days to its mailing list customers. And why not bring over the US concept of the trunk show? Matches fashion director and buyer, Bridget Cosgrove told me recently that 3 years ago when they did a Phoebe Philo trunk show it did phenomenally well as did a Roland Mouret one. I would be well up for attending a trunk show if I knew Christophe Decarnin or Current/Elliot would be advising me in person.

Another Susie Bubble heads-up, new LA mall Space 15Twenty grabbed my attention. A clever idea by Urban Outfitters, it ‘creates the opportunity for Urban Outfitters to collaborate with creative brands we find inspiring and interesting’ according to the info on its site. Not just shops, it also comprises music, film and art experiences alongside an Urban Outfitters store which will feature one-off installations by different designers each month.

On the subject of Urban Outfitters, blogger Jennifer Z at Gemmifer reports on a fab exhibition called Swarm on the first floor of Anthropologie in the Rockefeller Center. I’d love to see more stores doing exhibitions. Dover Street Market did a Stephen Jones one, Paul Smith has done photography ones…if something brings customers to your store and promotes an artist at the same time, surely that’s a cool thing?

The branded pop-up shop is a concept touched upon by my blogging buddy Sarah Rabia at Planner No Prefix. Sarah raved about the Monocle magazine pop-up shop in Marylebone which sells a carefully curated selection of kit for the discerning Monocle reader (think limited edition Valextra notebooks and Headporter tote bags). Now I’m fantasising about a Lula shop…or Teen Vogue! I would also love to see Liberty or Selfridges give over a small area to a designer or other creative to curate with items (fragrance/books/accessories/food) of their choosing*. Miranda July would get my vote, followed by Tim Walker and Alexis Mabille.

*Updated 19th March 09… seems this may be happening at Barneys