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Falling in love with the department store again

  • 14th Feb 2019
  • |  Insights
  • |  Izzy Watson
Falling in love with the department store again

Since the 1800’s department stores have been at the heart of our high streets and communities. They became a sanctuary for middle class women to browse and shop freely without the company of men whilst showcasing the best examples of foreign goods – imported for the masses to experience the wonderful and sometimes the weird. By design, they brought you a wide selection of goods and services all attainable under one roof, in various departments. They were the original destination stores.

The evolution of the department store is a fascinating one, but in an age where so many of our experiences are becoming virtual, or our desire for things is reducing, we seem now to have largely fallen out of love with these once innovative shopping places. Although some department stores are bucking the trend through provision of experiential retail, others are fighting to bring in the desired footfall.

We have re-imagined these traditional stores as multi-functional places. Why can’t these prominent anchor buildings be reconfigured to house a multitude of different uses creating identifiable neighbourhoods for all ages? Where micro apartments, hotel rooms and co-working spaces overlook makers’ markets and food courts at ground level. Or an urban farm? Theatre performances on the roof and constantly evolving leisure activities in the basement such as drone racing, or indoor night fishing. Weave in some break-out spaces for relaxation and hot yoga, flood the atrium with natural daylight and greenery and we may start to entice a new type of customer demanding new kinds of environments.

Of course there is no “one size fits all” approach to creating a successful and thriving community, but by empowering local people to create places that people can meet, engage and exist in large enough quantities, for the right amount of time, we can put the department store back together again.

As Chris Moody, Chief Design Officer at Wolff Olins has suggested: “Make people want to belong. Get them to fall in love with the department store experience all over again.”

If you want to make a date to talk about retail get in touch.

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