One thing has been clear for years: the fashion retail trade must change and there is more to this than just launching an online shop. To be attractive retail has to renew itself. But how? The answer is: with shopping experiences, new concepts and experiments.

Tips and ideas for concepts for renewal can be found, for example, at Nightingale. The experimental concept agency is headquartered in Antwerp and also operates an office in Berlin and considers itself as partner that designs and markets ideas, concepts or brands.



Hixx Store, Luxembourg
Photo: Nightingale
Hixx Store, Luxembourg


Stijn Nachtergaele, CEO & founder of Nightingale, explains, “Our intuitive approach lets us work across a range of disciplines, focusing on disruptive strategy, experimental concepts, progressive media relations, brand activations and on- and offline brand content.” How this has been implemented can be seen in Nightingale’s latest projects such as the redesign of a 1,500-sq.-meter fashion store in Luxemburg and the creation of an iconic exhibition for C.P. Company in Amsterdam, to name only few.

Here, Nachtergaele gives more insights about how to create a shopping experience and provides ideas that are also easy to create for small retailers and those located in the province.

Nightingale describes itself as an experimental concept agency. What does this mean in concrete terms? What do you offer?

We design and market ideas, concepts or brands.  Working in the field of lifestyle, we specialize in PR, trends and innovation. Our intuitive approach lets us work across a range of disciplines, focusing on disruptive strategy, experimental concepts, progressive media relations, brand activations and on- and offline brand content.

Some of our recent projects are the redesign of a 1,500-sq.-meter fashion store in Luxemburg, the creation of an iconic exhibition for C.P. Company in Amsterdam and the design of an interactive installation to launch the Nokia 8.

Hixx Store, Luxembourg
Photo: Nightingale
Hixx Store, Luxembourg


Experience and storytelling are at the center of your attention. What does this claim mean for a store concept?

Nightingale develops hybrid retail concepts where consumer experience is at the heart of the store.  This experience should fit the brand and its values instead of just being the latest new thing. The store should forge an emotional tie between the customer and the brand.  People tend to believe that the choices they make are due to rational analysis of all available possibilities. However we know that emotions greatly influence and even define our decision making process. Successful stores are more than just a place to buy something.  It is a first hand experience of the brand, its products and services.  The aim is to build communities of loyal customers where they can learn all about the brand and experience its products.
 

What are the latest trends in store design? How should the product be staged and presented in order to appear attractive and new?

The dramatic increase of online retail has meant successful retailers have focused on creating on-brand experiences. Products should be part of that overall experience for example Nike offers running tracks and Woolrich lets you try out the difference its product makes by installing subzero temperature rooms in their showroom.

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What significance do furniture, lighting, scents, etc. have in this context?

Successful stores engage all five senses. Consumers want to be entertained; they don’t want to just grab and go. Experiences can be created by playing with all five senses from a store playlist (that can also be listened to at home), to developing a store scent and lights that follow the circadian rhythm… there are many ways to make the store visit more enjoyable.

 

Inside Hixx Store
Photo: Luxembourg
Inside Hixx Store

What role does technology and digitization currently play in the area? Which tools really make sense and are mature?

Technology can definitely mean a revolution in retail design to simplify the customer journey. Instead of having to queue at a cashdesks, sales can be made through mobile sales assistants anywhere in the store. As an extra service, items can be tried on in the shop but delivered to home.

Changing rooms, Hixx Store
Photo: Nightingale
Changing rooms, Hixx Store

 

Do you generally advise dealers to install technologies on the site? Or is it worth it under certain conditions, such as size etc.?

Yes, even in smaller stores small investments can be made that result in big impact. For various clients we have used recorded inspiration stories (triggered by motion sensors when customers walk by a specific part of the store). Even a simple screen can show all about the fabrication process of the product.

 

What must be considered and observed when digitizing? What does the customer already expect? What can he already handle and what should one be careful with?

Digital tools should always be used to tell the customer a story and should not alienate.


Which international stores are currently doing particularly well? What are they doing right?

Kith NY creates new experiences that everyone wants to try (such as ice cream treats). The stores are as innovative as the brand. Selfridges is a true shopping destination that offers services such as personal shoppers, fashion shows and innovative windows dealing with important issues (such as fashion waste).

Inside Hixx Store, Luxembourg
Photo: Nightingale
Inside Hixx Store, Luxembourg
 

How can small retailers in the province refresh their concept?

With the rise of increased consumer interest in local shopping, small shops with a curated product offer can really make a difference. A pop-up can be a good way to test a strategy, ideas or new offers. Whatever the size, it is important to create a brand around the store, create your own content and merchandise.



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