In the past years, malls and department stores have been forced to follow the changes in our society, the new consumer behaviours and therefore its shopping experience. In a fast-changing world, brands must be creative, think out of the box and can no longer build a mere commercial relationship with their customers. Retailers must understand and face unconventional requests and needs, catch the attention and thus create an immersive experience in store.
The retail environment is moving, traditional stores must face a digital shift added to a more demanding consumer not only by introducing omnicanality and a connection between the online and the offline but also by offering a multi-purpose space where the customer can find everything he needs to live. Diversification through clothing, fashion accessories, home goods, and food but also neighborhood-style shops and services based on the so-called retailtainment create new forms of profitability based on experience-oriented consumption, as well as an additional sales opportunities making customers spend more time in store.
Milano Retail Tour just came back from a short field observation in Paris and decided to visit the department store Le Bon Marché.
In 2016 the luxury institution hosted the exhibition by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei entitled 'Er Xi' (meaning child's play or playground). His first work for a retail environment was divided in 3 parts and encompassed the 10 store windows as a prelude to the inside showcase located in the atriums and the gallery.
That exhibition had a worldwide effect. The Ai Weiwei exhibition raised awareness and boosted store traffic substantially. “Sometimes we had 10 times the usual traffic during Ai Weiwei”, chairman and CEO of the LVMH-owned department store Patrice Wagner said. “Business isn’t the only goal. We want to fascinate our clients, to show them something out of the ordinary.”
This year Le Bon Marché celebrates the installation of Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota entitled “Where are we going?”. The work represents 150 boats float of every size and from different cultures floating through the department store. Tote bags and keychains with the exhibition’s motif are on sale in store.
These exhibitions are not just an additional offer Le Bon Marché propose to its clients while shopping - the store already has a bookshop, a grocery store, a beauty parlour, a furniture department, restaurants and cafés - the art gallery is designed as a space where visitors can engage more intimately with the performance. In fact, the in-store exhibition creates a dreamlike experience for visitors to the department store.
As Ai Wei Wei said last year: “Paris certainly has its own style, its own way and a different rhythm, and sense of space. It stands for a city of great creativity, as the home to many great artistic movements such as Impressionism, Surrealism and Dadaism”.
And he notes that the retail space can actually be an excellent place to host artistic performances. “I like [this] better than museum white walls; they make me feel too safe, the white walls, and I always like danger.” Adding “It’s part of the urban landscape. It’s designed for somebody who doesn’t have to pay attention. They don’t have to know what’s going on, or who the artist is.”
Department store has the physical space to host monumental exhibition and for this year's "Where are we going" sculpure, 300.000 yards of cotton thread were required. Something that would be quite difficult to see anywhere else.
The exhibit will remain in place through February 18, in tribute to Le Bon Marché's tradition January linen sales.
What is your vision of this Art for Sale trend?
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