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05/20/2022

High-Tech Retail Experiences in Chicago

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Retail Leader sister brand, The Path to Purchase Institute, kicked off its first Future Forward conference on May 16 with an immersive Retail Store Tour exploring five retail locations in Chicago doing the most to execute key trends shaping the industry today.  

Sponsored and led by WSL Strategic Retail, the Retail Safari gave attendees an up-close view of one of three AT&T flagship stores, the largest Starbucks Reserve in the world, a recently rebranded Victoria Secret store, a small-format grocery store focused on localization called Dom’s Kitchen & Market, and a first-of-its-kind experiential Lululemon.

Despite what some believed just a few years ago, the physical store isn’t going anywhere. It is evolving substantially, and these locations are evidence of that. Read on to learn what Institute editors found most noteworthy.

Lululemon
Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood at 944 W. North Ave., this Lululemon location is the first full expression of experiential marketing for the athleisure retailer, first opening in 2019. While the first floor of the store isn’t totally abnormal, well-lit merchandising and a few unique art and lighting installments immediately catch your eye. There are also empty displays teasing Lululemon’s upcoming shoe drop, the retailer’s first venture in the footwear space.

Another unique element of this store is the presence of Lululemon’s at-home fitness platform and machines, Mirror, which the retailer acquired in 2020. Shoppers on both floors can test out and experience the connected fitness mirrors, which cost nearly $1,500.

Perhaps the most interesting elements of this store, however, are on the second floor, which looks almost more like a yoga studio and cafe than it does an apparel shop. There’s a designated Quiet Room/meditation space, featuring dimmed lighting and cushions, where visitors can come in and use for free or pay to use the guided mediation machines.

The room is also used for prenatal and postnatal-themed seminars. According to store staff, visitors who use the meditation beds are more likely to make retail purchases.

There are also two more rooms on the second floor that host yoga and certain exercise classes. Visitors can also use that space when they are free at their leisure. Large, full locker rooms are also free for use and include massive showers and complimentary products like slippers visitors can borrow.  

Also on the second floor is Lululemon’s cafe, which includes a “Fuel Space” food area that was recently rebranded as more of a grab-and-go section stocking brands that align with the retailer’s health-conscious values. The cafe area can be rented out for corporate events or parties, and frequently offers kombucha tastings or samplings of its healthy food offerings.  

The retailer leverages social media primarily to market its experiential services at the location.

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Dom’s Kitchen & Market
Located in Lincoln Park at 2730 N. Halsted St., Dom’s Kitchen & Market, which is owned by Bob Mariano, is a small-format modern grocery store hyperfocused on localization and personalization. Tom Whitehead, a concierge for Dom’s, said during the visit that more locations will open over the next two years, including one in Old Town, taking over space currently occupied by Plum Market.

The store exudes a neighborhood-type feel and provides indoor and outdoor seating and socializing space in addition to its grocery offerings. The store even hosts gatherings, like a bachelorette celebration and Monday Night Football watch parties. The store even hosted a drag show in the atrium during Pride Month last year. “If our customers are not having fun, we’re not doing it right,” Whitehead said.

The store also offers an extensive liquor section, a bakery, a cheese station, a plant butcher, sustainable and organic offerings and digital price labels.

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AT&T
Located at 600 N. Michigan Ave., AT&T’s store on the Magnificent Mile is one of three flagship stores for the company. Upon entering the store, shoppers are immediately greeted with a sandalwood scent that carries throughout the store to create a relaxing environment.

The store focuses heavily on the work-from-home shopper. Lifestyle tables aim to mimic at-home settings while merchandising offerings for the connected home. A section dedicated to kids also offers interactive games.

The store contains and rotates exclusive licensed products from popular movies, shows and properties, including currently Batman and the hit-show Friends.

A particularly unique element of the store is a large, curved screen, that looks similar to a golf simulator, offering a metaverse experience that utilizes AT&T’s 5G network. This experience is currently in phase one, according to a store associate, and will eventually allow shoppers to create avatars.

In addition, wall art and store signage throughout the store communicates AT&T’s sustainable values, store design and local attractions to shoppers.

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Victoria Secret & Pink
Located at 734 N. Michigan Ave., this store was recently rebranded along with many other Pink stores to align better with Gen-Z shoppers by placing social values at the forefront of this store. Signage throughout the store promotes inclusivity, diversity and body positivity.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery
The largest Starbucks in the world is located at 646 N. Michigan Ave. The Institute visited this store back in 2020, spotlighting the massive 35,000-square-foot location. See more here.