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The Latest store rethinks the physical space

New concept store showcasing hot-off-the-press products and prototypes from start-up manufacturers is breathing new life into the physical store space with its viable economic model and… View Article


The Latest store rethinks the physical space

New concept store showcasing hot-off-the-press products and prototypes from start-up manufacturers is breathing new life into the physical store space with its viable economic model and plans for further outlets.

Even though the maiden ‘The Latest’ store in Berlin managed only one months’ trading before lockdown enforced its temporary closure on December 16 it was sufficient to prove the concept and confirm the model would be rolled out to further German cities as well as initial units in the UK and China.

Model built on experience

Dhi Matiole Nunes, co-founder of The Latest, says the big surprise was the Euros 20,000 that the store generated because it is more about “focusing on creating an experience and explaining the products”. Only 50% of the items on display are actually available for sale in the store and customers have to purchase them from the manufacturers’ own websites.

The initial store involves around 50 start-up manufacturers taking space in the 260 sq m unit and showcasing an individual product or a couple of items within their own defined presentation area. They rent this space, paying a monthly fee for three to six months, with all sales going directly to themselves.

The carefully curated range of products encompasses cosmetics, fitness machines, eco-electric delivery bikes and even a wooden house builder as a manufacturer of such properties has taken space. But it is not just about physical products because the experiential proposition of The Latest stores lends itself to also selling services. “We can also sell software so we could sell an app. We’re moving beyond physical products. It’s very different to normal retail,” explains Nunes.

Focus on young manufacturers

The crucial part of the model is that these various items are from young companies so not widely available and certainly not seen in any other physical shops. Mostly they are only available on the brand owners’ website.

Finding such products is not difficult, according to Nunes, who says: “We’ve a team of six people going to Kickstarter and Amazon etcetera and getting in touch. We’ve 5,000 start-ups we’re reaching out to.”

Although Covid-19 is causing hesitation from some manufacturers to start a conversation he says those companies involved so far have “very much enjoyed it, especially as the sales people [employed by The Latest] have become used to the products and the explanations they give are very important” as this helps convey the brands’ messaging.

Using promotional expertise

The in-store proposition is enhanced by a visual merchandising team from Avantgarde, the parent company of The Latest, who help design the best experience for each brand. They also used their expertise to mount an out-of-home campaign on 264 screens across Berlin to promote the store’s opening. This helped drive 5,000 people to the outlet.

“These people would not have been reached online. In a bricks and mortar store you have all types of people coming in,” he says, adding that the beauty of The Latest store is that it does not compete with the websites of the manufacturers – they work together.

Nunes confirms that the next steps for The Latest will, however, include an online store. This will be integrated with the physical outlet via a unified commerce solution from its technology partner Cegid whose product offer works across channels. Cegid’s solution is the main host of product information and it surfaces this on the store’s stock system and will do the same for the online store. The integration encompasses the digital devices and payment hardware used on the shop floor as well as coverinng the management of click & collect and CRM activities.

Building international presence

“Cegid is very international so it is a partner for across the world,” says Nunes, who highlights that in addition to opening units in five more German cities (including Hamburg, Munich and Cologne) this year there are plans for stores in the UK and China.

There is also the likelihood that the size of these units will be increased to 400 sq m as the original concept of The Latest includes providing space to build a community through hosting events involving start-ups pitching their products to an audience including investors.

Such an innovative model for physical stores very much represents the future for Nunes who questions the viability of traditional retailers: “You can’t simply buy products and then resell them on a margin [gain] anymore. Instead people go online to buy goods.”

Article by Glynn Davis

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