Germany redefines retail with Bikini Berlin
With the launch of BIKINI Berlin in April last year, Germany’s vibrant capital became a pioneer in redefining retail in the digitally dominated age. Against the backdrop of waning offline sales and heightened consumer expectations, brought on by the rocketing presence of e-commerce, the brains behind this fresh strategic vision pinpointed the need to reinvent commerce in its conventional form.
After attracting half a million visitors in its first week alone, the concept mall continues to lure in a steady stream of customers post-launch hype. With its “shop different” slogan and forward-thinking retail approach, BIKINI is defying the downward trend of physical store appeal in the face of exponential online growth. Situated in City West, a fading Berlin quarter after the fall of the Wall, BIKINI represents a high-dose injection of colour and vitality into the area. Satisfying a host of lifestyle, beauty, fashion and gastronomical cravings, the impressive 17,000 sqm space is an ‘art house’ style answer to your standard mainstream shopping mall.
First to note are the 20 wooden containers – the BIKINI boxes – which house a revolving cluster of pop-up stores. These enable petite independent purveyors to sell their wares for 3-12 months, without committing to long-term retail contracts. It’s given smaller businesses who were previously pushed out of such areas an opportunity to start an offline conversation about their products, which would usually be sold via e-commerce alone. From a footfall perspective, this kind of fluid format is an exemplary way of generating an ongoing buzz; consumers are promised change and a motive to return time and again. The fleeting character of pop-ups generates a “limited edition” effect, sparking a higher chance of impulse buys and brand intrigue, too. Occupying the entire ground floor, the boxes are a sustainable means of simultaneously encouraging constant consumer traffic, maintaining marketing opportunities and supporting independents who would otherwise stick to online selling. They also fit in nicely with the overriding Berlin style aesthetic of individuality and creativity, enabling shoppers to hit upon garments that won’t be worn by the masses and can be tailored to their personal look.
Along a similar thread, the mall’s SUPERNOVA space is a flexible, totally novel approach to run-of-the-mill commerce. Dreamt up by the BIKINI crew and local creative agency KEMMLER KEMMLER, the area brings together two trendsetting brands each season and stages their pinnacle products in an ultra-modern, interactive way – the first collab being Nike and Berlin-born international streetwear retailer Firmament. To me, this experimental arena embodies the retail revolution that’s needed if physical stores are to stand a chance of future survival. Grounded in the philosophy that shopping needs to offer more than crumpled garments on dusty shelves, SUPERNOVA creates an all-encompassing experience that caters to consumer curiosity, inciting multimedia engagement and interactivity. Rather than narrow-minded fixation on sales, focus is on creating memorable experiences and heightening consumer engagement.
In the spirit of World Cup action, SUPERNOVA’s first seasonal theme was the ‘Future of Football’. Visitors became part of an interactive narrative upon entering the store, encouraged to try their luck striking at a hi-tech goal-shooting wall, after which they could tell the online community their results using the instant social share facility. Proving the power of in-store technology, the zeitgeisty environment was even equipped with the latest audiovisual kit from Samsung and Teufel, lending it a certain sci-fi charm. It’s through these kinds of futuristic touches that brands can deepen and sustain their relationships with a new generation of shoppers and keep physical store networks alive. BIKINI Berlin gets this entirely – rest of the retail world, listen up.