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Brief Published: 18 Jul 2016

Inside & Inclusive: The B2C Retail Trade Show Trend

Bread & Butter

A new trend is seeing once industry-only events opening up to the public, and transforming a new wave of emerging store concepts into buzzy venues resembling trade-show-style, lab-like showcases. This shift caters to increasing consumer demand for insider access and industry-standard knowledge on the shop floor (see Active Flagships and Inside, Intimate & Inclusive: New Store Design Direction).

We highlight the best examples to date, including those on the near horizon.

  • Be in On the Buzz: In late June 2016, Berlin fashion trade fair Show&Order opened its doors to consumers in the form of a shopping night on day two of the event. Marketed with the slogan: ‘Be part of Berlin Fashion Week’, visitors were able to shop S/S 17 women’s fashion and accessories from more than 150 (non-catwalk) exhibiting brands in the midst of enjoying an art exhibition, live music, food and drink.
  • Desire for Democracy: Similarly, Berlin-based streetwear trade event Bread & Butter is to be completely transformed into a consumer-facing trend show by German fashion e-tailer Zalando, which acquired the event in 2015. Slated for September 2-4 2016, the new event aims to break the circle of exclusivity and empower consumers to engage with brands on their own terms, rather than via the standard lens of buyers.

    Famous for adopting a thematic each season, the event is titled Now in celebration of fashion’s increasingly fluid state (see Fashion’s New Landscape). Twenty-five brands are scheduled to showcase digital and physical brand experiences alongside fully shoppable product selections. Some of the traditional booths will be replaced by open stages showing fashion installations or music performances in collaboration with underground Berlin music community Boiler Room. Opening from 1pm until midnight, tickets cost €15 ($16) per day. See also Streetwear Retail: US Openings.
  • Public Finale: The 2016 edition of Milan Design Week strengthened its status as a consumer magnet, attracting 42,000+ members of the general public for the closing weekend. The event is ripe for brands such as Nike and Pepsi to create extraordinary experiential brand playgrounds, although many remain marketing-oriented only. See Milan 2016: Brand Experiences for details.
  • Pushing Beyond the Elite to Drive Digital Footfall: In October 2015, French luxury fashion house Givenchy opened its New York show to the public, pooling registrations via GivenchyNYFW15.com on a first-come, first-served basis. One hundred tickets were dedicated to nearby residents, while 1,200 were allocated to students from local fashion schools. Beyond demonstrating inclusivity, the concept was clearly conceived to drive traffic to the brand's e-commerce site.
Show&Order Shopping Event
Nike, Milan Design Expo 2016
Givenchy NYFW 2015
Pepsi, Milan Design Week 2016
  • Real-Time Retail Showroom: Opened in December 2015, B8ta in Palo Alto, California is a multi-brand trialling store dedicated to new IoT (Internet of Things) devices. Brands rent retail space (B8ta takes a commission on sales) and, acknowledging consumers’ showroom habits, an iPad beside each item compares real-time online prices from rival retailers. Brands set their own in-store prices, which can be changed instantly to reflect topical promotions or ape e-commerce flash-sale tactics. See also Tactics for Retailing Tech.
  • Power of Play: US technology company Intel’s 2014 research revealed that 80% of Americans are excited about new technologies, but 50% are frustrated by a lack of hands-on access. In response, it has launched a series of explorative, trade-show-emulating branded showrooms in US electronics retailer Best Buy’s stores. Spread across 25 US states, the 240 sq ft spaces include a 3D printing station for customising toy robots, an augmented reality (AR) Martian landscape exploration tablet game, and a DJ experience.
  • Demo Palace: Launched in July 2016, British technology company Dyson’s new 3,230 sq ft store is located on London’s bustling Oxford Street. Shoppers are encouraged to touch, test and experience its full range of new technologies at various demo stations. Key examples include a space allowing visitors to trial vacuum cleaners, and another for expert-led hair-styling sessions using the brand’s new Supersonic bladeless professional hairdryer. 
Intel at Best Buy
Dyson Flagship London