Brands innovate with retail stores

17 November 2014

SHANGHAI: A number of leading brands are enjoying success and reaching out to Chinese consumers after adapting their "concept stores" to local tastes and conditions.

They include Johnnie Walker, the world's biggest Scotch whisky label owned by Diageo, and M&M's, the chocolate brand owned by Mars.

According to a report in Campaign-Asia, these brands are among those that have become increasingly aware of the importance of creating a sensory experience for customers who visit bricks-and-mortar stores.

M&M's, for example, has opened a new concept store in Shanghai's Brilliance Shimao International Plaza and it has attracted a large following among young consumers.

Part of its success is because M&M's took inspiration from Chinese culture, heritage and modern architecture, the report said.

In similar fashion, Johnnie Walker has launched a portfolio of "Johnnie Walker House" concept stores in Shanghai and other cities where customers can learn about whisky culture and immerse themselves in the brand's history and provenance.

"With Johnnie Walker House, we offer unique experiences – part education, part private club, part museum, part retail – for our consumers," explained James Thompson, global managing director at Diageo Reserve.

As well as improving the shopping experience, other key factors that underpin a successful concept store include adaptation to the local market, history, accessibility and location, regional marketers explained.

"They plant a flag in a city and firmly in consumers' minds to say, 'This is a leading brand, this is a winning brand', and everyone likes to bet on a winner," said Richard McCabe, regional planning director at McCann Worldgroup.

It comes as delegates at a retail conference in Singapore last week heard that over half of the world's shopping mall space currently under construction is happening in China.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) told participants that developers are also building a variety of formats across the country and in the wider region.

These include luxury factory outlet centres, especially in China in response to a slowing luxury market, as well as luxury malls in Singapore and the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia, Inside Retail Asia; additional content by Warc staff