As part of a new project for one of my clients, I spent last Friday on a tour around some of the shining light retail environments London has to offer.

We use a Retail Safari to help take our clients out of their usual day-to-day thinking on their brand and category to experience the most exciting, innovative and effective stores around. As a collaborative process, we jointly observe the environment to see how they communicate with their customers in everything they do – be it product displays, the décor, customer engagement and even navigation/information point of sale. This is then used as stimulation for workshops that we run to identify how best practice can be adapted, enhanced and implemented for our client’s brand.

While we picked these brands included in this Retail Safari with an eye on our client’s brief, they still represent some of the universal trends in modern retailing. Here is a selection of some of the more interesting sightings:

Hotel Chocolat: Roast & Conch:

A fashionably artisan store with a clear provenance and heritage devoted to all things cocoa – rich natural materials and an in-store cocoa roasting machine to show their workings giving it real authenticity.

As a fabulous alternative to the coffee shop, their variety of chocolate drinks establish the brand’s premier chocolatier credentials.

Rapha Cycle Club:

Positioned unassailably, yet not brashly, as “the finest cycling clothing and accessories in the world”. Association through partnerships with Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins lends extra credibility and stand-out.

What we found most interesting is their ability to increase visit frequency and dwell time in the store. Their coffee shop has a huge following (from fixey aficionados to middle aged men in lycra), is a place that is uniquely theirs and has become a mecca to those passionate about cycling.


Fitting in contemporary designer fashion in a regency store environment, is it an installation art gallery, a museum or an exclusive upmarket store?

Their use of digital screens throughout the store, including a two-storey high main display, and the cleverly placed glass on product displays reflect back the screens to the customer from every angle. These videos add to their fashion credentials and excitement of the store experience.


Nike Town:

The UK’s flagship Nike store lives and breathes their brand values like few others.

At the time of our visit, the whole ground floor was dedicated to the new England football shirt and, for an American brand, they managed to own this without any incongruity. A fantastic customer engagement activity allowed visitors to record how the England shirt ‘mattered’ to them and then played it back in slow-motion on wall-sized screens.

Their mantra-like brand messages were ‘set in stone’ at the store’s entrance, and embedded in the walls to give a sense that they are part of the building itself. They even used the store’s height to reward customer’s with additional messaging as they look back down into the ground floor from the balcony above.

Audi City:
This is a new proposition for any car showroom – create a space where the cars themselves only exist in the digital world. Slick consoles with large format touchscreens provide access to all the education, personality and product information even the most avid autophile could require.

Configure your car to the nth degree and then view the exterior or interior – zoom in or out to see every stitch on the leather interior or reflection on the alloy wheels. The biggest party trick is being able to ‘flick’ this on to a huge screen on the wall to view the whole car at (almost) life-size.

This is easily the best touchscreen experience I’ve witnessed in a retail environment – gone are the typical unresponsive screens, clunky UI and irrelevant longwinded videos. You even get your own customised print out to take away with all specs and prices, with QR codes linking to their website to update if required later. Surprisingly, no data capture – a missed trick maybe?

In summary, this eclectic collection of retail spaces provide insight into what can be achieved in flagship stores to bring a brand to life. They say the highstreet is dying, but with stores as interesting to visit and hangout in as these, then the physical store/showroom is always going to have a role to play in the omni-channel retail world.

I’m now looking forward to seeing how we develop these findings and add to our mix of recommendations to our client.

If you would to see how a Retail Safari could help your brand, please call me on 0161 872 7813 to discuss.

Adam Tregaskis
Head of Retail
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