“Retail Design is all about creating an experience,” I was told recently at a program at Kendall College of Art and Design, a little jewel of a school in Grand Rapids, MI.
One of the Interior Design instructors made this remark when I commented on how challenging it must be to teach retail design in an age where Internet shopping is taking a center stage in our lives.
I thought about this statement when I entered the new Anthropolgie store just off Michigan Avenue in Chicago recently. Wow. It’s an experience. Worth a peek just to see the new face of retail.
The space, once inhabited by American Girl store, also known for Experiential Retailing, is fairly small on the street level. I was drawn to an enticing seating area, engaging displays of products and a wild mix o f merchandise.
Shopping at Anthro, as the insiders call it, is a bit like foraging at a flea market or a vintage clothing store without the bad smells. You’ll never know what you’ll see next. The buyers travel all over the world to find unique, artsy, silly and interesting stuff. Then they display it in non-traditional ways.
The Chicago store is two-level with the second one underground. Down the colorfully painted stairs, you’d never know you were in a basement. Products for the home are introduced with a giant mixer filled with flour. Many of the walls have “décor” that isn’t for sale. Shirts are mixed with books. It’s a bit like the way we live. Jumbled.
It’s a one-of-a-kind aesthetic, even if they have tons of the merchandise back in some warehouse. It’s stuff that yearns to be touched, handled and enjoyed. Clothing, shoes, home décor, accessories, books, cards and jewelry. Vases and furniture. Plates and mugs. Candles. An intoxicating mix.
So, the next time you want a flea-market fix but have no time for a jaunt in the country, check out your closest Anthropolgie and then tell me what you think.