The North Face recently introduced the concept of the ‘progressive playground’ at its Regent Street store. Could you tell us a bit more about The North Face brand experience and retailtainment in its physical locations?
The new ‘progressive playground’ concept adds new dimensions to the store experience such as discovery, interaction (with staff and peers as a community) tactility and the inspiration of nature. With our Regent Street store, our aim was to create a community space that acts as a one stop shop for those who are passionate and curious about the outdoors to be able to find information, gear, and opportunities to connect with like-minded people to go exploring with. Our Regent Street store also gives consumers a glimpse into the outdoors, exciting them and providing emotional and physical context for products. In order to do this, along with providing the interior, fixtures and furniture of the store with a new look and feel, we integrated propping stories, sky windows with inspiring views into the outdoors and a community area to provide advice and a base for local events.
How does The North Face approach the cross channel consumer experience (online, social media, in-store)?
We want to be present at all touch points of our consumers’ lives and make accessing information and content easy for them, so we make sure to cover all relevant communication outlets for each initiative. For instance, with the Regent Street Store community initiative we have staff and in-store material that offer information on our community program, and we also use Facebook and Instagram as digital hubs and extensions of the physical program. In addition, we work closely with media and influencers to make sure consumers are able to learn more about the program and get excited about it.
What kind of retailtainment trends do you see emerging in 2016? Does The North Face plan to introduce any new concepts?
An important challenge for us is to find ways to provide an experience in the store that will inspire our consumers to undertake and enjoy an outdoor experience. To answer that challenge, we are looking at ways to bring about a new, immersive way of experiencing the outdoors in-store. In 2015, we soft launched a virtual reality station in select retail locations around the world to let our consumers see and experience outdoor adventure through the lens of our athletes on real expeditions. We are looking to develop this for 2016, and are currently working on rolling it out more permanently in the Regent Street store, and potentially other locations in Europe.
What sets The North Face apart from other outdoor adventure retailers?
Our brand DNA, heritage and passion for exploration and discovering the novel is what gives The North Face its distinct identity, at the forefront of ‘modernized outdoor’. We don’t just talk about exploration in terms of going outdoors and looking for new places, but also about finding new ways to do things, a new perspective, and exploring and challenging personal limits. We are inspiring and enabling Londoners (mentally and physically) to go outdoors, so aside from providing great gear, our store hosts and arranges regular activities that range from workshops (eg navigation skills) and training (physical training for climbing/trail running), to adventure film nights, and excursions (eg trail running, hiking, and camping outside of London). Additionally, our products carry The North Face’s distinct design language and DNA, and are developed, tried and tested by our best athletes on expeditions in the toughest places on Earth.
What challenges does the outdoor adventure retail market face in the foreseeable future?
Climate change and shifts in seasons are a big challenge for the outdoor industry to adjust product communications and traditional season timings in order to provide consumers with the product that fit their needs at the right time.
Which The North Face location/retailtainment feature/product is your favourite, and why?
The North Face Regent Street store is our best to date, and the first store in the world featuring our new retail concept. Our key brand values of innovation, authenticity, progression and boldness are now key take-outs for our consumer in the retail experience, with the promise to inspire them to live a life full of exploration and to ‘Never Stop Exploring’. In terms of product, the relaunched Summit Series is definitely a favourite as it represents our brand’s daring personality in always exploring new ways to do things better. Furthermore, it is our best mountaineering collection to date, and we believe it is the best in the market at the moment.
About The North Face
The North Face, a brand of VF Corp, was founded in 1966. Headquartered in Alameda, California, the company offers the most technically advanced products in the market to accomplished climbers, mountaineers, snowsport athletes, endurance athletes, and explorers. The company's products are sold in specialty mountaineering, backpacking, running, and snowsport retailers, premium-sporting goods retailers and major outdoor specialty retail chains.