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#2 – The Concept Store : A Store Format that meets Consumer Expectations

#2 – The Concept Store : A Store Format that meets Consumer Expectations

In my last insight article, I told you the story of concept stores. Today, let’s focus on why this store format perfectly aligns with today’s customers’ expectations. To do so, I gathered some data about the French market because I am French and, sorry, but it is much more understandable for me!

Because buying behavior is changing

I don’t know about you, but 2024 seems to me to be another pivotal year in the retail landscape. Since 2018, people have officially become aware of the social and environmental impact of their consumption. This hypothesis is confirmed by a study conducted by Kantar Worldpanel, which identified new consumption trends emerging in recent years. It is said that a wind of revolt is blowing against mass consumption. People are consuming less and differently.

In a 2023 report by Nielsen, consumer confidence in brands and institutions remains low. Indeed, 62% of French people are suspicious of mass distribution, favoring local networks and private labels. The quest for meaning has become a priority. A vast majority of French people are increasingly concerned about animal welfare and have a desire to consume greener. Today, people are willing to pay more for quality and healthier products, to value the work of farmers, artisans, and local traders.

Additionally, purchasing criteria continue to evolve towards local networks, justifying the trend and the appearance of concept stores:

Consumers think more before buying and need more support and information to ensure that their purchase makes sense. The need for advice and reassurance benefits local networks. The transmission of more human values, the sharing of stories, content, and relevant storytelling appeals to consumers looking for originality.

Because customers have new expectations for brands and institutions

A 2022 IPSOS study shows that 76% of French people expect brands and companies to be more responsible and transparent. Additionally, 85% of French people are ready to leave a brand if they feel they have been deceived. The young generation, also called “Millennials,” is fully representative of these insights, moving increasingly towards experiences in the acquisition of goods. According to Laetitia Faure, founder of the marketing trends office Urban Sublime:

“Storytelling, alias the staging of content by brands, is being gradually replaced by story living, namely the brand experienced through the prism of its clients. Consumers are now writing the history of the brand, and it is a fact that particularly appeals to the younger generation. “

New store concepts, specifically concept stores, mainly attract younger generations because they offer a story to tell their peers. Unlike traditional shops, concept stores advocate thoughtful consumption of products with a longer, more qualitative life expectancy.

These concept stores, therefore, highlight values ​​rather than products. The products are there to valorize a philosophy and stories so that the consumer can give meaning to their purchases. As a result, the concept store is used to evoke the importance of the brand’s values. It can be the taste, naturalness, and traceability for a food business. For a clothing brand, it will undoubtedly be an ethical production chain. In these places, consumers can examine the products’ manufacturing processes or judge the true expression of the brand’s values. On top of that, the customer must feel like an active participant, which involves the personalization of products, services, or creative workshops.

In recent years, many brands have refused to participate in the biggest mass of low-price promotions: Black Friday. For example, in 2022, Nature & Découvertes transformed Black Friday into “Fair Friday” to educate consumers about the plight of endangered animal species. Using the graphic codes of Black Friday (significant reductions visible from afar), Nature & Découvertes’ Fair Friday shone a spotlight on specific endangered species. The brand wanted to take advantage of Black Friday to carry a meaningful message and make its commitments known to millennials. At the end of its campaign, the Nature & Découvertes Foundation donated 50,000 euros to associations for the protection of animals.

Yves Simeon, Consulting Director for Reload, emphasizes the ambivalence of this new consumer:

“As a consumer, he does not want a store without a cashier, he does not want to wait at the checkout, but as a human, he does not want a store without a cashier. As an individual manager, he wants low prices, but as an individual citizen, he does not want to exploit the peasants.”

In this context, new consumer expectations can be defined by three pillars:

Because consumers are no longer novices

We discover new consumer profiles. First of all, expert consumers who learn widely online before, during, and after their purchases.

Consumers consider other consumers as the most reliable source of information. Friends, relatives, influencers, and even strangers are a source of trust perceived as different and authentic. 90% of consumers say that the information published by other consumers on the Internet influences their purchasing decisions.

Consumers then become experts in sifting through products before even contacting a merchant. So, in addition to making the customer want to recognize themselves in the brand, creating surprise and advising, stores and brands must ask themselves about the representation of their fundamental culture in the heads of their customers and rethink their distribution models. Distribution models should focus on experience and transparency to have a positive and meaningful impact.

The concept is not new; User Generated Content (UGC), the grail for any community manager, has now become crucial for any retailer. UGC plays a significant role in the purchasing behavior of younger generations, who are very optimistic about their future purchasing power. According to a 2023 CSA / COFIDIS survey, 72% of 18-24 year-olds believe that their purchasing power will increase or remain stable.

The notion of a consumer-actor takes on its full meaning when we look at new consumer behavior, expectations, and profiles. This term grew throughout the 20th century to denounce the unethical practices of specific industries (slaughterhouses, the influence of scientific research by the tobacco industry, etc.). Very demanding, the consumer interprets the values ​​of a brand as the gateway to discovery and choice.

Consumers want to take part in the fight for a more sustainable world. The success of applications like Yuka (now with over 20 million downloads) reflects the power gained by consumers. Thierry Wellhoff, Director of Wellcom, said in a recent interview with CB News: “Commitment is at the same level as economic performance. It’s a matter of survival for a business.”

After the Glorious Thirty, consumers rushed into hypermarkets to find choice and low prices without worrying about the quality or quantity of their purchases. Today, shoppers are pushing for healthier and more environmentally friendly products. Based on this observation, a consumer can recognize themselves in one of the following three comments:

A logical return to local shops

This observation justifies the desire to return to an authentic commercial relationship. The intervention of Arnaud Texier, strategic advisor at, in the Brussels show Tendances Première explains this new positioning. According to him, the initiative, created in 2010, has already helped more than 150 innovative and original stores to open in the city of Brussels thanks to the support of the “Open Soon” project.

This project starts with listening for over 10 years to Brussels consumers, attentive to several values:

Thanks to investments made by this type of initiative, is boosting local purchasing and repopulating city centers. The opening of an innovative and original store brings traffic back to its street. The appearance of these concept stores leads to the creation of other concept stores because these projects inspire young and new entrepreneurs, as testified by Laurence, Founder of 11:11 Concept Store, in Rouen:

“Since we opened our concept store only 6 months ago, our store has attracted others and has had a snowball effect on the entire neighborhood. We are now several carriers of concept stores oriented towards ethics, short circuits, etc. Our area is coming back! “

These initiatives also boost the local dimension. Consumers prefer short circuits, but merchants, too, choosing local suppliers and producers to bring even more authenticity and history to their concept. Short courses to guarantee the maximum freshness of the products and, therefore, a winning circular and urban economy. A nice counterpart vs. Internet and Amazon.

Inscribed in its neighborhood, the concept store knows how to enrich and bring life to its community by animating the places through meetings, meetings, and events.

“This type of business is a consequence of the evolution of communication, the way of life of populations, and consumption habits. “

– Olivier Gerval, Co-author of the book Concept Store

Some concrete cases

Concept stores were therefore born from local shops and from an original idea of a passionate trader. The range of possibilities is vast, ranging from catering to the sale of clothing.

During the various interviews I carried out across Europe on this blog, I was able to identify four main categories (non-exhaustive, indeed): food & drink, beauty, fashion, art & design.

Of course, there are a thousand and one forms of concept stores, since, as you will have understood, the format will depend on the unique personality of the owner. Nevertheless, I suggest that you retain four concepts which, in my opinion, correctly define the idea of the concept store and the values it covers.

Aujourd’hui Demain, a 100% organic and Vegan grocery store in Paris

The pitch: Aujourd’ hui Demain is the first vegan Parisian concept store. Much more than a grocery store of fresh, organic, vegan, and bulk products, the concept store has a boutique section, a coworking section, and a restaurant service at any time of the day.

Offers: The store first allows its community to make vegan, eco-friendly, and socially responsible purchases in one place. References are ethical fashion items, natural cosmetics, a selection of books that reflect the owners’ lifestyle, products for children, and animals. The restaurant menu changes frequently and offers dishes made with fresh and always vegan products. Brunches are organized every Saturday and Sunday, and a coffee shop service offers famous gluten-free desserts and lattes of all colors.

Point-of-sale events: Aujourd’ hui Demain regularly organizes workshops, screenings, pop-ups, DIY workshops, tastings, and dedications to bring its concept store to life community together around the subjects that drive it.

The layout of the concept store, the shop window, the products, the drinks, and the desserts are 100% instagramable and updated regularly.

Elbgold: an organic and ethical coffee shop in Hamburg.

The pitch: Elbgold invites coffee lovers to enjoy this delicious drink where the coffee is roasted. The owners collect their coffee beans from the most ethical and responsible farms around the world to import them to Hamburg. Guaranteed and eco-responsible quality.

Offers: In its coffee shop, Elbgold references ten different coffees. In this former shed of raw materials, the visitor can take advantage of the full space to work and taste a fantastic flat white, eat homemade pastries or buy their coffee in bulk directly imported and stored in the containers displayed in the coffee shop. The roasting is also open to visitors curious to discover the process of roasting coffee. The roaster explains where the coffee comes from, what temperature it will be baked, and why.

Point of Sale events: tasting sessions are organized several times a month to teach consumers how to appreciate coffee and recognize good and bad coffee. It’s also a moment of empowerment, that’s when we stress the importance of consuming coffee from ethical and responsible agriculture. As soon as a new variety of coffee is imported, Elbgold organizes a tasting course. The coffee house can explain why they picked this kind of coffee and tells a bit more about the farmer’s history.

Claus Porto, creators of soaps infused with local scents, in Porto

The pitch: Claus Porto is an old house of beauty and perfumes. The brand is based on handmade soaps infused with refined scents inspired by ingredients from the countryside of Portugal. From the product’s esthetic to the packaging design, the product experience is at its peak.

Offers: First specialized in dry soaps, Claus Porto has widened its offer and offers a wide range of unisex cosmetics ranging from perfumes to body products via the house (candles, diffusers, …). Claus Porto soaps are packaged by hand in unique packaging inspired by the European Belle Époque.

Point of sale events: Now present in Lisbon and New York, Claus Porto makes it a point of honor to share its know-how with its public by organizing a series of workshops in each of its points of sale, every month.

So, to discover and try the products in the “grooming” range, visitors can take advantage of a traditional barber service, performed by a master barber, every Saturday.

To discover a little more of the brand’s universe, Claus Porto invites his community once a month to create labels and original advertisements for the brand as they were printed during the Belle Époque. The workshop, which takes place monthly, is conducted in Portuguese and English. The perfume laboratory offers consumers a sensory journey. They have the chance to extract scented oils from aromatic plants to create their unique fragrance.

Finally, the mini soap factory is a miniaturized version of the brand’s production line. Visitors can discover how soaps are made and take one as a souvenir.

The Shop at Bluebird, the temple of fashion and design in London

The pitch: Designed by design agency Dalziel & Pow, in a former 19th-century stable, The Shop at Bluebird offers an impressive point of sale experience. The store looks more like a lush garden oasis or ornate greenhouse than a traditional, minimalist upscale boutique. Daylight passes through the glass atrium of the building, which bounces all over the space with a multi-faceted reflective sculpture.

Trailing plants and a range of eye-catching finishes, such as modern art, vintage lampshades in jewel tones, and lively fitting rooms with botanical prints, create an original store that invites customers to touch and try everything exposed.

Deals: In the lobby, customers are greeted by The Shop at Bluebird’s most affordable and contemporary offering, which includes high-end women’s clothing brand Rejina Pyo and brand Scandi Ganni. On the first floor, visitors discover the selection of luxury houses Alexander McQueen, Chloé, Peter Pilotto, and Isabel Marant. The store contains more than 100 fashion and accessory brands, which account for approximately 75% of its business. Beauty represents 7%.

Point of Sale Eventing: The Shop at Bluebird puts young designers and artists in the spotlight by installing pop-ups in its store. Each new collection and reference is celebrated by taking up the opening codes of art galleries. Depending on the season and the weather, a restaurant/bar opens on the top floor of the concept store, which opens onto a large terrace in the heart of the very fashionable Coven Garden district. Finally, an excellent grooming service offers its visitors an eyebrow bar and light therapy sessions.

The lessons learned from the context of the reappearance of concept stores

The concept store was born to introduce consumers to a new way of consuming, oriented towards sharing, authenticity, and proximity. These businesses, initially independent, had the mission of agreeing to a particular lifestyle, bringing together communities around the values ​​carried by the concept store.

Now back, thanks in particular to DNVB, the concept store is improving, evolving, and meeting other objectives. Brands and distributors are inspired in their own way, to test new technologies and sales techniques and get closer to their consumers. Brands want to design their new Flagship and immerse consumers in their universe and their DNA through a unique and memorable place. Even if it means investing a lot of money in a store concept that does not guarantee that it will be profitable.

But more than the store format, brands, brands, and distributors have everything to gain by being inspired by the two fundamental pillars of the concept store: guaranteeing a unique and personalized shopper experience while integrating it into a great community.

The concept store then tends towards shopper experience laboratories, where we seek to understand the role of the store on tomorrow’s journey and how digital can fluidify and enrich each point of contact on this journey. The concept store is not a one-off initiative just to follow a trend. It is instead the source of a more global distribution strategy. This red thread concept will be adapted and enriched on each distribution channel, both physical and digital.

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