As we all know, the retail landscape is radically changing. There is a big cultural shift with an increased appetite for wellness – lifestyle experiences designed to recharge, revitalize and improve well-being. Self-actualization over stuff is shaping our high-street. This is revolutionizing how brands do business and how they connect with their consumers in their physical environments.
The conventional high street store is being replaced with “lifestyle spaces” - wellness havens that no longer simply sell a product. Product displays are edited making room for active studio spaces and tranquil meditation hubs - participatory retail experiences that trade on allowing consumers into the heart of their brand.
On that note Melanie Whelan CEO of cult fitness studio Soul Cycle talks about it’s core difference - “It's not one thing, it's a thousand things. It's how we design our booking app, the candles on the front desk, the phone chargers in the lockers, the instructors on the podium, and the way we follow up with you. In our heart we are not a fitness company but a hospitality company.” Here marks the change in mindset and how brands are thinking about themselves and how they can learn from other markets. How can inspiration from hospitality win hearts? How can your brand benefit from hospitality thinking?
Brands also need to look at who are running their business - who is driving the connection to this new wellness trend? Start up brand Psycle is a great example of this - they initially employed former national swimmer and clinical nutritionist Rhian Stephenson as an advisory in the wellness space but over to time it was clear she was the perfect candidate to run the business. She is now at the helm as CEO taking the brand on an extensive expansion programme across London.
There seems to be a general less is more approach - less emphasis on product and more investment in how brands can help build a better quality of life for their consumers – it seems in some cases building “a better you” is actually becoming the product itself. Brands need to build a community around a central brand purpose that sparks an emotion.
We have seen many strategies around marketing to wellbeing such as Nike running clubs and Lululemons yoga classes – is this enough? Does it feel like a mere add on? Brand District Vision doesn’t see its running and meditation programme as a mere marketing tool. “What we’re developing is a product as well,” says Vallot. This highlights the idea of staging a transformative experience, not only as marketing but as a product to be sold.
Robyn Berkley, founder of New York-based activewear brand Live the Process, turned her personal passion for yoga, meditation and wellness into a clothing line, which also produces content and hosts transformative one-off events. “I want to be the brand that incorporates idealism into someone’s life,” Berkley says.
British activewear brand Every Second Counts is the brand for fitness focused men and women. Designed to go from the gym, running, Pilates, spinning, yoga to daily life in a second. Founder Sally Dixon tells us “We are passionate about healthy living, clean eating and looking after our bodies. With Every Second Counts we create a place for you to not only buy feel good active wear but read up on how you can make your body and mind feel better too. The brand connects through the idea of making the most of life - fulfil every moment – make every second count today.
We visited the Retail design Expo at Olympia recently – one of the panel sessions described shopping centers as “lifestyle villages” with property planners having multi-use spaces top of mind as people demand entertainment, shopping being one part of the experience.“ It’s about creating a third space for consumers after work and home, we are already putting plans in place to restructure so that teams look after places.” Neil Carter, centre manager at the multi-million pound Whiteley Shopping Centre in Hampshire. This is driven by the consumers desire to explore and be served all at the same time.
We have seen a significant change closer to home in our local high street in Richmond - Jack Wills has replaced by Joe & the Juice, Monsoon by Itsu, Hobbs by Leon, French Connection by Ole & Stein…the list goes on and you start to get the picture. This places an incredible pressure on brands to stay relevant and define exactly what they stand for to gain stand out. Are the fashion brands missing the point?
The surge and rise in food and beverage on the high street perhaps makes sense as a consumer – what you eat and drink can make you feel better. It’s simpler for these brands to tap into this wellbeing world. We feel the challenge lies with fashion retailers, perhaps always seen as transformative – what you wear can make you feel good and communicate social status. However do fashion brands need to work a little harder into how they are going to connect to this new wellbeing world.
Fashion brand AYR connects around the idea of “edited essentials all year round.” This taps into consumers looking for simpler lives; brands that help them edit their lives down to an optimal core are winning. This is a brand with a very clear purpose and mission.
Fashion brand Cuyana’s connects around “Fewer Better things” – they have partnered with a non profit HEART with a lean closet initiative – if you choose lean check out you receive a reusable donation bag for clothing that “aren’t helping you live your most beautiful life.” This makes consumers feel good and at the same time helps them lead and simpler life.
Interestingly in a bid to stay relevant M&S have bravely recently released a new campaign called- #spend it well which promises a journey to the extraordinary - “quality experiences, people and things that really matter.” This is the first time for them as a brand that food and fashion have been advertised as one, possibly their attempt to tap into the wellbeing trend and change the way that people feel about them.
Either way the future is exciting, who knows what is around the corner, what we do know is wellbeing is the way forward. Connect with hearts and minds – defining a brand purpose could never be more important, own your emotional territory and be someones third space.
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