How to start a concept store.

3 Feb 2020

The concept store is an emerging retail model for a new generation of shopkeepers. They are places to discover a whole host of independent brands with a mutual vision. Sharing a store can be a cost-effective way to reap the benefits of brick and mortar — especially if you utilise a temporary retail space.

To help you navigate the process of launching a concept store, we met with two owners: Niko Dafkos, Co-Founder of Earl of East and Justin Kerzner, President of Naked Retail Group. Together, we compiled some crucial steps to take to ensure success:

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Know your theme.

No two concept stores are the same, but one thing they all have in common is a clear, strong theme — this is what elevates them from a traditional high street store. Perhaps you already have some brands in mind: what do they all have in common? Are all the brands involved independent? Perhaps they’re all sustainably sourced, or from the same country? For Naked Retail Group, the starting point was a lack of democracy in brick and mortar retail: “We wanted to find a way to help direct to consumer brands activate in real life, giving them an opportunity to have a great space in a busy high street.” For Earl of East, the inspiration was their creative East London audience: “We showcase a real mix of brands but the thread that ties them all together is that they all tell a story.”

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Define ownership.

This is an important thing to nail down early on, even in a temporary retail space. Understanding the role each brand will have in the concept store will help to avoid any confusion later down the line. It’s best to appoint a leader for the project who everyone can delegate to if there are any issues. You will also need to consider how rent will be structured: will there be a flat rate for all, or will it be proportional to the amount earned by each brand in the pop up space? Who will staff the store: will every brand chip in? Justin suggested approaching these issues collaboratively: “We structure our rent fees based on footages, but we don’t call it ‘rent’. We call it a partnership fee because we design, build and staff for all our stores, so it’s more of a collaboration we have with our brands.”

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Plan the space.

For many shopkeepers, designing the floor plan of a pop up space is the most fun part. This is an opportunity to get creative: will you curate according to your brand, the products you sell or aesthetic? For The Naked Shops, it’s based on an editorial theme: “We tell stories in our stores, with a different theme every couple of months,” Justin told us, “Our last theme was ‘A Day Well Spent’, featuring a spa and lots of wellness brands.” When planning your brick and mortar store, it’s easy to get carried away, but make sure you involve your brands and communicate your plans for the layout — this will reduce the risk of any future confusion. Also, consider updating the layout of your pop up space every once in a while to keep your temporary retail space exciting. “We move the shop around frequently,” said Paul, “so that people can discover something new every time they visit.”

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Put on an event series.

With a focused and clear concept, it’s likely that you appeal to a very specific audience. Putting on events in your pop up space will bring this community together. Earl of East spotted this opportunity early on in their journey, and now host candle-making workshops, as well as residencies with local artists. “Over time, the brick and mortar stores are becoming community spaces,” Paul notes, “Our evening classes are also a way of bringing people in who might not have discovered the store.” For Justin, events are a way to promote and elevate the brands he works with: “It’s another way for them to activate in real life. They can have PR launches, events, and product demonstrations. It just gives the customer another reason to come back.”

If you need more guidance on how to launch your first concept store, or even suggestions for brands to approach for a pop up space, our concierge team is here to help. Give us a call or create an account so we can find out how we can help you bring your idea to life.