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HD: Shop-in-shops: One of the decade's big ideas

From J.C. Penney to Target to Selfridges, retailers across the spectrum are giving over valuable floor space to in-store shops. Here are some interesting observations on the phenomenon from Joanna Felder, VP intelligence and brand strategy at Chute Gerdeman, Columbus, Ohio.

Shop-in-shops offer retailers the magic formula of flexibility, brand-enhancing cachet and the ability to attract new customer segments. The opportunity has never been better for young, entrepreneurial hip brands to find a mainstream home.

Once, the strategy was simple for the big stores—identify blockbuster brands and give them their own space within your store. In return, brands created (and paid for) their own signature environments.

Today big-name brands are old news. The hunt is on for unique, distinctive, niche brands and products. Add to this consumers’ interest in locally sourced products that are more distinctive, carry a story and celebrate craft—the more obscure the origin the better.

Increasingly, stores are curators—pulling disparate products together into lifestyle groupings to appeal to discerning customer groups. Acting as an editor, the store can up its own style ante and target new customers.

Investing in your environment is step one of creating the kind of cachet that will attract customers and commercial attention. Nothing demonstrates this phenomenon better than The Shops at Target, a series of independent specialty shops with cult-like local followings that Target sought out, then took to prime time. The Webster in Miami, Privet House in Connecticut, The Candy Store in San Francisco—each brand has its own distinct attitude and atmosphere that infuses product, place and identity. Target's shops, while confined primarily to endcaps, attempt to bring some of an independent brand's style into the space.

Specialty stores, by nature, are often more about a branded environment than about product. So when big stores want to sponsor a hot brand within their space, they often have to bring the environment too. Witness AllSaints — a brand that, without its signature environment, wouldn’t be half as distinctive, edgy or appealing. So when Selfridges decided to bring the brand into their Oxford Street flagship, they literally built a mini-AllSaints with its eclectic broken tile floors, reclaimed wood walls and industrial fixtures in the midst of their white marble store.

Who owns the environment then? Well, we’re seeing it both ways: Bloomingdale’s Santa Monica does a beautiful job of creating casual box-like structures to house many of the trendy brands they feature, so the environment has unity, but a strong character of the independent shines through. This allows the store to pop trendy brands in and out without reinventing the store.

Selfridges in London gives over its space entirely to a series of boutique-like spaces that express each brand’s individual aesthetic. In men’s and women’s areas, roughed up AllSaints shops sit near smartish Paul Smith and ever-so-plaid Burberry.

TopShop prefers category shops with a multi-branded denim world, yet the men’s floor features a Kate Moss mini-shop—so both options exist in one store.

J.C. Penney is banking the brand on a concept of main-street shops throughout their store—light on environment, held together with a standardized fixture package that allows one to two customized pieces and graphics from the respective brands.

Our retail intelligence team keeps their eyes on the market. It’s our view that shop-in-shops are one of the decade’s big ideas. Keep it new, keep it fresh, keep it flexible.


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