By collaborating with brands and environmental changemakers including the Woodland Trust and WWF, luxury department store Selfridges is advancing a bold five-year plan to highlight how the fashion biz as a whole can deliver real positive social impact. With Project Earth, Selfridges has committed to transitioning to certified, sustainable sources for those materials with the greatest environmental impact by 2025. For instance, all feathers used in products such as duvets and eyelash extensions will be byproducts of poultry production. In the first year, Selfridges bestowed its Project Earth label on 9,000 products, meaning they meet the company’s sustainability requirements.
31st Most Influential Project of 2021
Israeli-Dutch startup Wasteless wants to take a bite out of food waste. Its AI-powered dynamic pricing engine automatically reduces the cost of perishable food items as they spend more time on store shelves: The closer a product is to its “best before” date, the cheaper it will be to buy. The tool could be a gamechanger for grocery stores, where the company estimates roughly 87 percent of food waste is due to products languishing past their expiration date.
33rd Most Influential Project of 2021
Converting digital native shoppers into brick-and-mortar visitors has been an elusive quest for retailers. But Chinese tech giant Tencent and U.K. luxe fashion brand Burberry collaborated to turn the in-store experience into an app-driven interactive playground. Burberry’s first so-called social retail store, Open Spaces, opened last year in Shenzhen with 10 spaces that merge consumers’ online and offline brand experience.
27th Most Influential Project of 2021
The fast-fashion giant is out to change the apparel industry’s abysmal sustainability rep with what it’s calling the first major in-store garment-to-garment recycling system. Developed by the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textures and Apparel and Novetex Textiles, the shipping-container-sized system gives new life to unwanted garments by cleaning, shredding and spinning the fabric into yarn. And unlike conventional garment production, the process doesn’t rely on water or chemicals—slashing its environmental impact. To build buy-in—and buzz—the company is turning Looop into an in-store experience, letting shoppers check out the entire process through the glass walls of the room encasing the machine. The first one debuted at a Stockholm store in October 2020, with future locations in the works.
In an industry built on exclusivity, U.S. apparel retailer Old Navy is opting for inclusivity. The company’s Bodequality is nothing short of a full-on transformation of how it serves and represents women of all sizes. Bucking the mainstream, Old Navy is retooling everything from the nav bar on the website to the mannequins in store. And all designs will be sold in every size without a price difference in the retailer’s 1,200 locations and online store. Rolled out in August, the project was nearly two decades in the making and arrives not a minute too soon: The global plus-size clothing market is projected to reach US$696.7 billion by 2027.
Google is no stranger to pop-up experiments, but it has eschewed a permanent retail space throughout its 23-year history—until now. In June, the tech giant opened its first physical retail store in New York City. Rather than pushing product, the store employs a try-before-you-buy model: One room (what Google calls “sandboxes”) takes users through a short skit of using a Nest hub to answer the door for a delivery person (haptics in the couch even simulate the vibrations of someone knocking at the door). Another allows users to experiment with taking low-light photos using Pixel phones. Designed by U.S. architecture studio Reddymade opted for low eco impact in everything from the flooring made with recycled materials to the locally designed custom cork furniture. And that attention to sustainability standards earned the store LEED platinum rating.
When the pandemic hit, in-store visits to Ulta Beauty plummeted—but customers still wanted help. What would that sparkly purple eyeliner really look like? So the U.S. beauty retailer decided to scale its virtual try-on experience called GLAMlab. The digital innovation team rolled out a skin analysis tool and AI-powered try-ons for hair, foundation matching, eyelashes and more, across thousands of products. And even as shoppers increasingly return to in-person visits, many are still using the app to try on products and guide their purchases—no touching required.
Sixteen years after shuttering its doors, luxury Parisian retailer Samaritaine reopened for business in June, following an extensive €750 million revamp that turns the space into a mixed-used development. Helmed by LVMH and its retail subsidiary DFS Group, the project drew big-name creatives, including Canadian interior specialists Yabu Pushelberg, local creative agency Malherbe Paris and Japanese architecture studio Sanaa, along with Vinci Construction France. To manage the redesign and renovation of the five-building complex, the team had to ensure the project wasn’t just a paean to past Parisian glamour but would also pull in modern shoppers. The latter meant prioritizing flexibility and multi-functionality in the store’s design, an essential survival tactic for retailers.
In-person auctions might be going, going, gone, thanks to the iconic art house’s first virtual art auction—a record-breaking, US$400 million affair. Livestreamed in mid-2020, the two-part event required extensive upfront planning from Sotheby’s. That included everything from building a London studio to support a multicamera setup to coordinating with auction specialists in New York, London and Hong Kong to support real-time bidding. A dress rehearsal held a few days before the auction helped the team plan for and respond to risks, such as a dead phone line or other livestream glitches. The proactive planning paid off: The auction not only set 14 records in sales for the featured artists, but it engaged Sotheby’s largest audience to date.
This isn’t your usual music-venue merch stand. Billed as the first permanent retail space by a musical act, the Rolling Stones’ London shop opened in September 2020 as a collaboration with Bravado, the merchandise and brand management arm of Universal Music Group. With a stop-shoppers-in-their-tracks interior by GH+A Design Studios, the store is filled with clothing and accessories—much of it emblazoned with the band’s signature tongue-and-lips logo. A RS No. 9 Carnaby hub on the band’s online shop also extends the brick-and-mortar experience to online shoppers.