How should brands navigate a change to their high street store space?

When Cult beauty brand Glossier opened its first pop-up store in London, over 10,000 fans visited in a week. Now it's back again. The brand started online and has built up millions of loyal digital customers, mainly via Instagram. As its pop-up success shows, these customers also want a slice of the brand "IRL" (or in real life, to use Instagram speak).

Many emerging brands have chosen online-only direct to consumer strategies. However numerous reports have emphasised that despite their fixation on all things digital, a key online spending demographic – Generation-Z - would still rather shop bricks and mortar. This trend has led some commentators to call for retail brands to re-value their bricks and mortar portfolio: “we have to stop looking at [bricks and mortar] rent as a cost of distribution and begin looking at it as the cost of new customer acquisition. Stores are media, and until we begin measuring them as such, we’ll never understand their true and total value.” [Doug Stephens, “The Most Important Metric in Retail”, Business of Fashion.com, July 2019 link]

Today, brands’ strategies for attracting Generation-Z shoppers into store will often involve a change of use in their store space – things like free tie-dying services, workspaces, wellness events or even laundry machines in one New York clothing store.

From a legal perspective, brands looking to offer the next big idea in store should be mindful of the following:

  • Checking the store's lease or licence as the planned activity may be restricted by the landlord or require the consent of other tenants.

  • Checking your insurance covers the planned activity or pop-up and whether the limits are appropriate.

  • Checking if you need any licences or regulatory approval for the planned activity.

  • Gathering as much information as possible from suppliers or pop-up partners - what exactly will they provide in store and what needs to be resourced internally or elsewhere? How will their processes work so you can cover off the risks in the contract?

  • Granting IP rights needed by the suppliers or pop-up partners such as in brand materials provided to them.

  • Will the supplier or pop-up partner be gathering personal data from any customers on your behalf?

  • Will risk in any new installations or objects in store transfer from the supplier or pop-up partner to you? Will you have title to these installations or objects?

  • Agreeing the charging mechanic with suppliers or pop-up partners.

  • Finally, also be mindful of trial periods with new suppliers: if the supply contract for the new store activity is likely to be extended, you could make sure it is geared for the longer term from the start or ensure it is re-negotiated before extension.

These kinds of legal considerations won’t be at the front of shoppers’ minds but ensuring a positive, smooth-running store experience will be key in brands maximising the true “value” of the store.