Fresh space design approaches from four innovative retailers

We all crave innovative ideas as much as we desire convenience. In retail especially, when e-commerce has made shopping as easy as clicking a mouse, you shouldn’t assume tried-and-true business models will stir consumers out of their desk chairs to snag holiday gifts or run errands for their family. You can — and should! — craft a customer experience that’s as uniquely attractive as it is efficient and profitable. To make your space work, you must make it count.

Last month, we explained three principles for designing engaging spaces. Today, we’re following up on those concepts and highlighting a few brands that are firing on all cylinders with intriguing space designs that engage their customers as well as they make money.


IKEA has become synonymous with inexpensive but elegant modern furnishings. Despite their minimal Scandinavian lines, their spaces often seem to be as big as their name recognition — visible from space. However, the decor company has recently signaled a new direction toward smaller, cleaner footprints.

While also placing more focus on online sales and home delivery, IKEA has decided to open more stores in urban markets and neighborhoods, hoping to increase access to their customer base. Heralded by the opening of a shop on London’s Tottenham Road, the company’s City Centre Approach promises stores drastically smaller than their big-box model — about a quarter of the size. IKEA plans on opening 30 new touchpoints worldwide, including locations in San Antonio and Norfolk, as part of this initiative.

Your stores are most effective when your store size and services match what your customer needs. Keeping up with those needs as they change is key.

IKEA acknowledges that the vast majority of their shoppers do extensive research before coming to their stores. Much of the City Center Approach is intended to meet customers where they are in their shopping journey with additional services for larger-scale, more complex home projects such as a kitchen remodel — a shift from “do-it-yourself” to “let’s do this together.”

The takeaway: Evolve with your customer. As consumer tastes and needs shift, so must your space. Your stores are most effective when your store size and services match what your customer needs. Keeping up with those needs as they change is key.


Efficient use of space helps your bottom line. Fourpost, a Retail as a Service provider, unites different brands under one roof for an immersive and stimulating shopping experience.

Fourpost opened two locations at the beginning of November at the Mall of America in Minneapolis and the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta. Each space is split into units called Studio Shops. Each Studio Shop comes complete with fixtures, signage, lighting, PoS and Wi-Fi, as well as customizable space options.

While Fourpost allows smaller brands and companies to present their product at an affordable rate and in a unique environment, the model has attracted the attention of household names, too. Among the 22 brands at the Mall of America location, Polaroid and Marshall Headphones have established their own Studio Shops alongside local retailers as diverse as jewelers, home furnishers and cheesemongers.

The takeaway: Thinking small is the new “think big” — because your footprint no longer guarantees your success. Take advantage of new, smaller retail real estate options to diversify the modes in which your customer can interact with your brand to stay relevant, conduct efficient experiments and iterate more quickly than before.

Capital One

Capital One flipped the table on financial services when they opened bank cafes in some of America’s largest cities, aimed at the millennial crowd.

Alongside convenient financial services, like complimentary money coaching and no-fee ATMs, the cafes serve Peet’s Coffee as well as locally sourced baked goods, along with free Wi-Fi and power outlets for roving workers, students or anyone in need of a connection. They also host free community events, focusing on everything from savings strategies to charitable giving and travel planning.

What may be most striking about the model is that all free services offered at the bank cafes are available to anyone — regardless of bank membership. But Capital One must see some return on their investment: They plan to open a new cafe per month in 2019.

The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to reinvent your own model to stay true to your mission. Refresh your floorplan and your offerings if you see that your target customer isn’t having meaningful interactions in your spaces anymore.

The Bike Shed

Needing a meeting spot for his eponymous motorcycle club, Anthony “Dutch” van Someren restored a rail station in the artsy Shoreditch neighborhood of London, complete with a store and restaurant to sell cool gear and affordable food to aficionados and passersby alike. The concept quickly morphed into a bonafide landmark and crossover hit.

Four railway arches compose The Bike Shed: one each for the retail space and eatery, another as a commons and the fourth as a bike garage. They’ve been so successful, van Someren hopes to open a Los Angeles location.

Naturally, The Bike Shed benefits from motorcycles’ classic cool. But its third-space success relies on Shoreditch neighbors, curious tourists and casual fans as much as road warriors.

“We never set out to open a restaurant. We set out to open a destination,” van Someren said in an interview with Insider Trends, “and everything that we do within that is all about how we serve the community.”

The takeaway: Authenticity goes a long way, and that goes beyond product. If you’re authentic about your “Why?”, then you’ll succeed.

These brands have done a few things right: They remain flexible and adaptable, met the needs and desires of their target audience and provided loads of incentives for showing up and spending money. They all took calculated risks that broke existing molds — and they’re reaping the benefits.

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