Why workshops in-store are good for retail

24 Jan 2016

JW Anderson

This week, JW Anderson – Britain’s leading fashion designer – hit the headlines for launching not a store but a workshop. The space will host a series of creators who JW Anderson sees as “kindred spirits,” from artists to ceramists, magazine editors to singers. His workshop is a place for people gather, enjoy an experience and occasionally buy something. Anderson explains, “we live today not in a luxury world, but a cultural world — where we have to create more experience.”

For retailers today, experience means everything. As Freshminds concluded in a recent survey, “one thing that cannot (yet) be replicated online is shopper immersion in a (brand) experience. Consumers recognise that sometimes they want an experience as part of the shop.” As a result, more brands are looking at creative ways to bring their retail environment to life, such as inviting in like-minded creators, turning part of their shop into their own studio and hosting classes for people to join in.

Combining retail space with a workshop or studio space is not a new concept, but the benefits of doing so have multiplied due to the changing attitude of millennials towards physical retail. We took a look at some of our favourite brands to see how they’ve got creative with their spaces and the benefits creating these experiences brings.

Grace and Thorn

Hosting workshops or classes in-store allows brands to build more personal connections with their customers. For instance, the alternative florist, Grace and Thorn, has built a cult following from their in-store classes: the Renegade Flower Sessions and Terrarium Tuesdays, where customers can try their hands at creating Grace and Thorn’s signature flower arrangements. Teamed up with prosecco and hip hop music, Grace and Thorn’s classes helped build their following amongst East London’s hipsters and showcased the fact they were no normal flower shop.


Having live workshops and classes in-store is also a great way to create a unique atmosphere. When TRIBE, who make performance nutrition snacks for runners, opened their Old Street pop-up they hosted running clubs, yoga sessions and talks. The co-founder, Rob Martineau commented, “having activity in-store is really important for creating the right atmosphere. If you do it well people are drawn to it and want to be part it, which ultimately leads to sales later down the line. Hosting classes and talks in-store were a way for us to live our brand and quickly show people what we’re about.”

Lexie Sport

Brands are also noticing that by inviting people into your store to take part in a workshop, not only boosts visits but increases sales. Lexie Sport, an activewear brand, tested hosting exercise classes in their pop-up – it proved to be their most successful store yet. They had a record-breaking number of visitors, in-store transactions and increased online interactions. However, it wasn’t just the people who attended the classes who were creating the buzz, it was also the passers-by who were curious about what was going on inside and wanted to find out more. Tip: having lycra clad people doing Voga moves in your windows, is a sure way to build a crowd outside your store.

Creating a personalised experience is key for today’s consumer. As Freshmind’s report revealed, “millennials put a lot of emphasis on uniqueness, standing out, exclusivity and personalisation…Today’s shopper wants something different, something meaningful, something bespoke, something exclusive. They also want an immersive and participatory experience, where they feel part of the brand and where they perceive extra value beyond the product.”

Kit and Ace

Kit and Ace use ‘tailor shops’ inside their stores to create a personalised experience. Shoppers are able to come in-store and customise their clothes, so they’re a perfect fit. These in-shop designers also benefit from getting direct feedback from customers about what they would like and what they want from their clothes. “They actually get some of our locals to try on the samples and get their feedback on possible new designs.” explains co-founder, Shannon Wilson.

It also works great on a smaller scale too. Socks and Knots set up a personalisation stand in their Christmas pop-up (allowing people to embroider their initials onto their socks) and were inundated with requests for the service. Word spread organically and their following grew. Once the socks had been embroidered they were placed under a Christmas tree in the shop for people to collect, which added to the theatre of the experience.

Socks and Knots

For small brands, combining a studio and shop into one space, helps saves costs whilst improving the experience for customers The founder of M24 bags, Matt Dusting has been using a series of pop-up shops as his roving office. They’ve helped him understand much more about his customers and business by always being around them. And with future pop-ups he plans to incorporate more of his production into the store so that his customers have the opportunity to watch their bag being produced in real time.


In today’s retail world having good products simply isn’t enough anymore. It’s harder than ever to stand out from the competition, meaning brands need to ensure their stores tell their story in an engaging way to give people a reason to visit them. The shops that succeed in the future will be perceived as destinations for experience and discovery. And with one of Britain’s leading designers trying his hand at it, you can be sure more will follow.


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