National Geographic will tomorrow make its first foray into retail, using a concept developed by its franchisee Worldwide Retail Store’s in-house design team.
The store, in London’s West End, is the first phase of a £30m capital retail investment by Worldwide Retail Store that will see a global network – including stores in Singapore, Istanbul and Barcelona – open next year.
The Regent Street flagship is intended as a ‘meeting point for travellers and explorers’, and will feature interactive visual displays, exhibits, an auditorium, a café, a travel desk and a photography studio over 1800m2 across three floors, to educate and inspire visitors, and to celebrate global cultures.
‘The idea was to think ahead of the traditional retail environment. People don’t like commercial spaces anymore where you just buy products,’ says Worldwide Retail Store senior vice-president Gianni Baylo, who led the overall vision and direction of the store, from products to layout.
Baylo’s vision and concept was developed and actualised by Italian architect April, led by Francesco Tiribelli.
Product ranges, including eco-furniture and ethnic artisan products, are set against a backdrop of steel and bamboo.
Consumers can ‘road test’ apparel in the store’s ‘climate room’ or product-testing chamber, which features wind gusts, extreme temperature changes and other synthesised real-world conditions.
In-store use of the National Geographic brand, while important, has been kept to a minimum, says Baylo, to ‘avoid overkill’.
Italian retail franchisee Worldwide Retail Store approached National Geographic almost four years ago with a concept that would translate the National Geographic brand into an experiential concept, according to National Geographic Enterprises senior vice-president licensing John Dumbacher.
The retail concept devised by Worldwide, says Dumbacher, ‘translates the National Geographic heritage into an environment that tells all its stories’, with proceeds from the retail venture funding National Geographic research.