Best in class
Restoration Hardware, Los Angeles
Some of the most impressively designed and merchandised stores I have ever seen would have to be Restoration Hardware. There are 74 of these luxury home furnishing stores across the US offering reproductions of historic designs.
These beautiful stores are set up as rooms of a home, more akin to a gallery than a traditional store, where customers are presented with the complete look.
The experience is best described as like walking through a luxurious mansion, curated with the best and most stylish interiors of bygone era.
The Beverly Blvd store in Los Angeles surprises shoppers with the outdoor entertainment settings actually presented outside.
In addition to regular Restoration Hardware stores, there are four RH Baby & Child stores, with rooms themed by age groups taking shoppers on a journey from baby furniture and accessories to pre-teens.
Tesla, Los Angeles
Ever gone to the supermarket to pick up some milk and come home with a new car? Electric car maker, Tesla, makes this scenario all too possible with its network of 34 retail stores located in shopping centres across the US.
Tesla has taken the traditional way of selling cars and turned it on it’s head, making the process of the buying a new car immersive, interactive, and convenient – it’s the Apple Store of cars.
Digital screens instore enable customers to compare the cost of running Tesla’s electric vehicles to that of petrol fuelled cars, with accessories on show to personalise your car purchase from the colour to its wheels. If it’s accessories for yourself (not the car!) you’re after, then you’ll find these instore too, from apparel (men, women, babies), to mugs and drink bottles.
The cherry on the cake is the dedicated Tesla charging stations in the car park, ensuring shoppers will never be without enough fuel to run the milk home.
Eataly, New York
Eataly is a tribute to all things Italian in the heart of New York. Three years after its opening it still remains a standout.
The New York store is based on a store of the same name in Turin, Italy, and was imported to the US by NY chefs Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and Joe Bastianich.
Eataly is more than just an Italian themed food market and dining precinct, the 460sqm immerses visitors in a fully authentic Italian cultural experience.
All realms of cuisine are covered, with the store housing an instore bakery, gelato bar, carvery, pizzeria, beer garden, wine bar, Panini counter, coffee roastery, vegetable butcher, cheeses and deli meats, seafoods, and dry pastas and sauces.
There’s even a digital kiosk to book your next Italian holiday, as well as Italian cooking utensils, and cookbooks available.
Casa Pagoda, Shanghai
Started in 2003, Casa Pagoda is an eclectic homewares store curated by an expat Belgian couple.
The Tianzifang stores (there are two across the road from each other) visited by the Westfield World Retail Study Tour were colourful with a distinct western style, and follow on from the first Casa Pagoda store in Bangkok, Thailand.
The main Tianzifang store features a mixed collection of mostly furniture products merchandised with often kitch, vintage style accessories.
A whole room is devoted to this style in fact, boasting a larger than life Superman, petrol bowser, and motorcycle apparel and accessories.
The smaller Casa Pagoda across the road has less character, being mostly glasswear, manchester and linen, and smaller decorative homewares spread across two levels.
Mast Brothers Chocolate, Brooklyn
Located in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mast Brothers Chocolate, run by Rick and Michael Mast is authenticity at it’s best.
The store doubles as the kitchen, and there are visual prompts of just what takes place there theatrically set up within the
store – a bag of coco beans, rows of baking shelves, and chocolate chefs themselves bustling about in their whites.
The chocolate itself is made from organic, artisanal cacao, with beans imported from farms in Madagascar, Dominican Republic, and the Venezuelan Caribbean coast.
Even on days that production is not underway in the vast, open to the public kitchen, the smell of chocolate permeates the space, tapping into the senses and encouraging purchase.
If the smell doesn’t sell you, the product itself may well. Beautifully packaged premium blocks of chocolate are displayed on a
wide table in the centre of the store below a wall-sized menu of flavours.
I.T was founded in Hong Kong, but is currently expanding across mainland China. It is perhaps the best local Chinese retailer the Westfield World Retail Study Tour visited, and houses a curated collection of high end fashion labels from around the world, including Alexander McQueen, Nina Ricci, Isanel Marant, Helmut Lang, Acne, Rag & Bone, Acne, and Comme Des Garcons, as well some company owned brands, such as 5cm.
The department store style retailer features separate brand concession for each, all elaborately designed and well staffed with helpful sales assistants.
Each concession has a distinctly different feel to the next, and window displays of I.T stores are of the same quality as global brands such as Louis Vuitton.
The Dunhill store in Shanghai is in a world of its own, quite literally. Occupying a large villa behind the main retail street and accessible by an unassuming lane, the store is surrounded by green gardens and tranquility not often found in bustling Shanghai.
Its location alone sets it apart from much of the retail in the Westfield World Retail Study Tour had the opportunity to visit on our trip.
Three levels of menswear is housed in the English-style villa, with leather bags and accessories occupying the ground floor, bespoke tailoring and sportswear above, and a suitably masculine themed bar and restaurant in plush red and dark woods on the upper level.
Separate rooms are furnished with vintage décor and accessories to add interest to the products on show, and the store lighting is dim, creating a warm ambience.
Bespoke is the buzzword for Generation Y and hipster types, which is probably why custom premium denim maker, Loren, fits in so well in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Loren specialises in one of a kind handcrafted denim pieces (though mostly jeans) as well as stocking its own range of premade brands such as Lips, Soldier & Brave, Melody, and Blksmth.
The store oozes authenticity – the small tenancy is divided in half – one side dedicated to retail, and the other to an open workshop visible to customers.
The concept was developed by a former Levi’s and Ralph Lauren denim designer, Loren Cronk, who sources fabrics for his custom creations from all over the world before hand sanding and sewing them himself.
And just to add that extra element of personalisation – each pair is labeled with a number and date of creation.
Istinye Park, Istanbul
Opened in 2007, Istinye Park is in my top 10 of shopping centres in the world.
Blending high street retail with luxury brands and traditional Turkish operators, the centre caters well for the middle to upper communities of Istanbul.
Highlights of the centre include escalators revealing their inner mechanics behind glass walls, the tenancy mix, huge centre court, and atrium-style roof.
An impressive and comfortable looking food court features an authentic Turkish food bazaar, which on our visit had the locals queuing.
The outdoor upper deck of the centre is perhaps the most impressive, incorporating the luxury precinct, valet parking, green space, and covered restaurant.
In all, the centre spans 85,250sqm and houses 291 stores.
Grand Bazaar (and neighbouring Spice Bazaar), Istanbul
By contrast, the world’s oldest covered market, The Grand Bazaar, is a sight to behold.
Housing more than 3000 retailers in a space where if you don’t leave breadcrumbs you may never find your way back, if you’re looking for carpets, fake leather designer handbags, trinkets, ceramics, clothing, scarves, or traditional Turkish wares, this is where you will find them.
Established in the 1500s under the Ottoman Empire, the marbled floors and beautifully crafted arches are a reminder of retail’s ancient roots.
The Bazaar becomes packed with locals and tourists by 10am in the morning, attracting 300,000 visitors a day.
This is where the art of the sale may have been born, with store proprietors bustling and cajoling passing shoppers with calls and compliments – and you thought Australian retail was competitive.
If you can navigate the 60-something streets of the Bazaar, you’ll find yourself at the Spice Bazaar, the city’s second largest covered shopping complex, comprising 88 vaulted rooms with no less atmosphere, hustle, and theatre than the Grand Bazaar itself.
This story originally appeared in Inside Retail Magazine’s August/September 2013 edition as part of our exclusive coverage on the 2013 Westfield World Retail Study Tour.
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