Gentle Monster – where Blue Peter meets MIT

Sotheby’s, Bremont Watches, Fred Perry, Asprey, Fenwicks, Nicholas Kirkwood join the Retail Hive for a private tour of the Gentle Monster flagship store.

It all started with some alien visitors to Earth who discovered kung fu and became utterly obsessed by it. All the aliens want to do is practice kung fu. But it is very difficult for them as they have very short limbs. So they have built training bots. They begin their practice every three minutes at the boom of a gong which is powered by a galactic cactus farm…

It is these training bots, a collection of zany looking kinetic robots, which welcome you when you first enter the amazing Gentle Monster store on Argyll Street in the heart of Soho.

Editorial Director and Co-Founder Sally Green walks through her extraterrestrial experience…

Gentle Monster Innovation Tour
This morning I was joined by a small group of Retail Hive members for a private tour of the Gentle Monster store by Gary Bott, UK MD and Ben Thorne, Operations Manager. Gentle Monster is a 10-year old designer eyewear brand that entered Europe in 2018 with a concession in Selfridges. As well as selling gorgeously designed product, they have also taken the idea of spatial design and applied it to their retail spaces to transform shopping into an out-of-this world experience which has more in common with immersive theatre or art installation than with retail as we know it. In fact, at their headquarters in South Korea they have just 6 people in their product design team, compared with 80 people in their spatial design team. This is a concept that is taken very seriously.

You don’t at first notice the sunglasses being showcased on the video screens and on the walls and benches throughout the store. And it all might be visually overwhelming were it not for the friendly staff (store and brand ambassadors) who welcome visitors to the space and engage them in a compelling narrative that helps connect the dots of this fantastical concept. The result is that the average shopper spends 20 minutes in the store, always completes the full customer journey, and leaves Gentle Monster with a smile on their face, converted to the magic of the brand.

Next level storytelling

This is taking narrative and storytelling to a whole new level in retail, elevating content away from the product in order to engage customers in a unique way that drives ferocious loyalty and an army of advocates. The lighting and gorgeous/wacky photo opportunities throughout the store encourage selfies which flood social media and thus the Gentle Monster brand penetrates further. The concept for every store is different, and is changed every 12-18 months. And of course the creation of a destination store like this is accompanied by targeted PR and marketing to drive the right people to the store. Curiosity hooks people into the brand and then the job of the Store Ambassadors is to convert that amazement into sales. And it really does work – we watched it happen…!!

We talked with other brands and retailers throughout the visit about concept stores, spatial design, robotics and animatronics in retail, removing product from retail space, collaboration with other brands, the impact of Coronavirus and how to target the 260,000 Chinese students in London!

It was a very inspiring visit – huge congratulations to Gary and his team and thank you very much indeed for having us.

See for yourself
“Kung Fu Aliens” can be enjoyed at the Argyll Street Gentle Monster flagship store until May and I encourage anyone interested in the evolution of retail to go and pay a visit….

Next Innovation Tour
The next stop on the Retail Hive Innovation Tour will be the House of Dior on Bond Street. Let us know if you’re keen to get involved!

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