A couple of weeks ago we published our first concept store review on Nike’s House of Innovation in NYC. This week we’re looking to the other side of the pond with H&M’s first-of-its-kind concept store in Hammersmith, London.

Here at YOOBIC, we were beyond excited when the store first opened on December 6th. Not only was this an exciting new retail concept, but it was also just around the corner from our London office!

Needless to say we had to check it out immediately, and we were impressed - let’s just say that a good proportion of our office’s Secret Santa gifts this year were bought there.

But now that it’s been up and running for a couple of months, has the novelty worn off? We went on a shopping trip - ahem, research expedition - to see if H&M’s ambitious concept was still as impressive as it was back in December.

A visual merchandising paradise

So what exactly makes this H&M different (and better) than all the others? Every concept store needs its USP, and for H&M Hammersmith, this is primarily down to its aesthetic.

The shop truly is a beauty to behold. With stone floors, greenery everywhere you turn, and chic gold mirrors, it feels far more luxurious than a standard high street store.

But a stunning store is nothing without a perfect VM layout to go with it, and this is where H&M really shines.

The placement of every single item is intentional. Clothes are grouped according to style and colour, and paired with coordinating accessories, nail polishes, homewares and even coffee table books on fashion to create a kind of real-life lookbook.

In a lot of high street shops, you just don’t find that kind of cohesion. Even if VM guidelines are followed to the letter, by the end of each day everything is out of place, having been haphazardly picked up and put down by customers, making it look more like a jumble sale. That doesn’t seem to have been a problem here, though, as every time we have visited the store it has looked pristine.

Even the changing rooms, notoriously hard to get right, are up to scratch. Instead of the cramped, dusty cubicle with terrible lighting we’re all used to, they’re a continuation of the stylish interior of the rest of the shop.

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The personal touch

Personalisation is the watchword of 2019, and H&M has hopped on that trend straight away. On the upper floor you’ll find a sewing station where you can have items of clothing mended or embroidered with a design of your choosing. Again, this makes it feel less like part of a chain and more like a unique shopping experience that caters to the individual.

Another area the store excels in is beauty and cosmetics. H&M has had a beauty range since 2015, but they’ve really kicked it up a gear here. Rather than just displaying the products on shelves as normal, they’ve added a sink area where you can test out different fragrances and play around with the products.

And in a special added touch, you can even buy flowers! This really sets the store apart, especially now spring is on its way. Just walking past the store, with all its brightly-coloured blooms displayed outside, is bound to make you smile.

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Using technology the right way

The main technolH&M (6)ogical improvement made in this H&M is the introduction of self-service checkouts. Unlike some of the other stores introducing this feature (we’re looking at you, Zara!), they’ve gotten rid of the plastic security tags that customers find so difficult to take off themselves, making the process much quicker and easier.

I’ll admit that the first time I used one of these tills I needed a little help from a sales assistant, but the beauty of automated checkouts is that there were actually people available to ask for help! Digitising this aspect of the store frees up the staff to do what they do best and actually attend to customers who need assistance.

It’s also notable that, unlike some concept stores that load up on cutting-edge tech, H&M have kept it simple. The general look and feel of this branch isn’t futuristic, it’s chic. Putting in smart mirrors or aisle-roaming robots just wouldn’t gel with the atmosphere they’ve created here. A self-service checkout option seems to be all the innovation this place needs to stay ahead of the curve without looking gimmicky.

If you happen to be in Hammersmith, be sure to drop by and check out this gem of a store - we promise you’ll leave feeling inspired.

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Which concept store would you like to see us review next? Leave a comment below to let us know!