During the pandemic, brick and mortar locations have evolved, offering customers curbside pickup, improved omnichannel experience and some offering entertainment-oriented venues.
But hybridisation in retail has been happening for some time and according to Leigh Dole, founder and director of Blow Bar Co., combining experiences is not easy.
Blow Bar Co.
Blow Bar Co., launched in 2015, is a combination of salon and bar where visitors can have a blow dry, up-style or makeup and have cocktails, champagne and canapés at the same time. It also offers a range of tutorials, photo shoots and private events.
“The Blow Bar concept is simple yet complex. Our core being blow dry and makeup in a bar setting,” Dole told Inside Retail. “The design was complex. How do I ensure a stylist or makeup artist has all the things needed to perform a professional service yet have a functioning bar with all the wants and needs for a mixologist?”
“There were so many things to consider, chair heights, bar heights, bar health and safety, hot tools, liquor licences… the hurdles seemed so high and many moments in the early days were almost too hard. But the persistence of what I believed was a perfect concept was what pushed me to keep going.”
From the original blow dry bar concept, the Sydney-based retailer evolved into events, functions, group bookings, corporate functions, weddings, tutorials, photo shoots, daddy-daughter dates, and most recently, a podcast and photography studio.
For a hybrid store to stay relevant, it must continue to evolve and continue to land new narratives, according to Danny Lattouf, partner and CSO at The General Store.
“Whether that purpose is driven by an industry’s need to pivot in uncertain times, or responding to a genuine customer need/opportunity, or responding to culture where the pairing of two brands/experiences create a multiplier effect for both business, it needs to stay fresh, that’s when it will better stand the test of time – and go beyond being just a trend,” he told Inside Retail.
During the latest government-imposed lockdown in Sydney, Dole’s expansion plans were interrupted, and marketing and PR strategies have had to pivot and adapt once again.
“I think if there is a silver lining, it’s the passion and appreciation for the work we do, and the people we work with, and the love for our clients and community. I miss people, I miss connecting, but we will be back and we cannot wait,” she said.
Bath & Barley
Bath & Barley, which opened in May this year, goes beyond the relaxing-at-a-pub experience, allowing visitors to enjoy a bath while having a beer.
The high-end private beer spa is located in the old city centre of Brussels, Belgium. The building houses a vaulted cellar and a curved copper installation inspired by the ancient copper kettles used to brew beer.
According to co-founder Bart De Brabanter, people won’t be taking baths using beer, of course. Visitors will be bathing in a mix of fresh water, herbs, brewer’s yeast, hops and malt.
“The active enzymes and brewer’s yeast make your skin and hair supple and soft. Yeast and hops in particular have a beneficial effect on the skin. Hop contains a lot of powerful antioxidants and cleans your pores,” Brabanter told World Today News.
Matt Newell, partner and CEO at The General Store, said the beer spa is an ultimate combination of libations and leisure.
“They call it the ultimate Belgium beer spa. Beautiful design, an interesting blurring of retail categories (hospitality + wellness). All focussed around the ultimate social relaxation time in the tradition of the ancient Romans,” Newell said.
7 Deadly Sins
Located in Manhattan, New York’s Meatpacking district, 7 Deadly Sins is a concept that turns storefronts into stages for a live theatrical performance, ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, which features several playwrights.
The event, which includes short plays that are performed largely in storefronts and audience listen in with headphones, was brought together by director Moisés Kaufman and theatre production company Tectonic Theater.
“The short plays are 10 minutes each,” Lattouf said. “Each one dramatising the seven deadly sins.”
He said it is an amazing way to address two massive Covid disruptions: driving foot traffic back to retail and safely getting people back into seeing theatre.
According to Lattouf, the rise of hybrid retail spaces boils down to the need to bring people back to physical stores.
“I believe there are several driving factors behind the increase in cool here. In a broader sense, from an art, fashion, music and pop culture perspective, ‘collabs’ are smashing it around the globe right now – from OFF WHITE x Nike to Ed Sheeran releasing an album that is so focused on banking on this trend that it is literally called ‘Collaborations’,” he said.
“Pairing experiences at retail, where expected and even more interestingly, unexpected hybrid experiences are formed, is bringing an aspect of that culture we’re embracing, to life at retail.”