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Good News Comes In Threes

A trio of trends that are likely to have a positive impact on the retail industry in the coming year




TALK ABOUT A triple-whammy: during 2021, the pandemic continued to play a major role in daily life; massive snags in the supply chain caused shortages in a variety of goods; and inflation surged to levels not seen since the 1970s.

Like a New Year’s Day hangover, those factors are expected to continue to make their presence felt in the coming year. But on the plus side, let’s look at three major innovative trends that appear ready to help retailers find new ways to connect with customers in 2022.

Tenspace (Columbus, Ohio) offers digital native and direct-to-consumer brands, like sports apparel brand Rudis, a physical space to test store concepts and brand activations.

Tenspace (Columbus, Ohio) offers digital native and direct-to-consumer brands, like sports apparel brand Rudis, a physical space to test store concepts and brand activations.


Incubators have long been a staple of the tech sector. The idea: provide a low-cost, supportive space for a fledgling app or a gadget to be nurtured for a limited period of time. Now, the same underlying concept is making its presence felt in retail – think of it as a pop-up shop on steroids.

Brands occupy Tenspace for about two months, creating a rotating group of retailers to keep shoppers interested.

Brands occupy Tenspace for about two months, creating a rotating group of retailers to keep shoppers interested.

One of the most ambitious examples of this trend can be found on the main drag through Columbus, Ohio’s Short North Arts District, a trendy area adjacent the city’s downtown. There, in a shallow storefront at 930 N. High St., is an experiential retail incubator known as Tenspace.


What types of retailers are best-suited for the space? “Digitally native or mostly DTC [direct-to-consumer] brands that are fast growing, pioneering something new in their category, have an established and reliable supply chain, have an inspiring founder’s story and have extraordinary product,” says Rachel Friedman, Founder and CEO of the concept’s creator, Tenfold (Columbus, Ohio). “We have found that brands with $10 million and above in revenue are best suited to make the investment.”

The entire space is generally devoted to a single tenant for two months. Since opening last fall, the locale has hosted Rudis (Marysville, Ohio), a fast-growing, direct-to-consumer brand of wrestling sports apparel and athleisure lines, followed by a holiday-themed environment for (Los Angeles), a creator of clothing, accessories and more, that says it is dedicated “to help you be your best and encourage joy.”

Los Angeles-based apparel and accessories brand created a holiday-themed experiential activation at Tenspace.

Los Angeles-based apparel and accessories brand created a holiday-themed experiential activation at Tenspace.

Retailers that sign on to occupy Tenspace start with somewhat of a blank slate. “We outfitted the space to include a custom-designed retail wall and freestanding fixtures; LED technology display; remote-controlled, color-tunable lighting; and neutral finishes,” says Friedman.

Beyond those basics, Tenspace “is much more than a location to house a brand,” explains Faith Huddleston, Tenfold’s Director of Creative Activation. “Our team does all of the creative work, execution and store ops from initial strategy through design, fabrication, installation and staffing (including events). We also create all of the social content to promote the shows and capture video and imagery assets during the shows.”

Tenspace’s “secret sauce” is the amount of user-generated content created during shows there, says Friedman. “Our reach is in the millions based on unpaid and unsponsored posts that consumers create once inside the space. They are genuinely and authentically moved so they capture content to share with the world. Our impact goes well beyond Columbus, Ohio, reaching the ends of the internet.”


The concept may also expand to other physical locations. “We are actively looking at cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and Nashville,” she explains. “We have been approached by developers interested in recruiting us to come to their shopping districts with compelling incentives.”

3 Trends That Will Positively Impact Retail in 2022


So-called “circular” retail is surging. That label is a store-focused take on the broader principles of the circular economy, which describes as one “in which products are kept in use for as long as possible through multiple ‘service lives,’ maximum value is extracted from them while in use, and the materials in them are then recovered and regenerated at the end of each life.” This eco-friendly concept is being embraced in varying degrees by a growing number of retailers, including Lululemon, Eileen Fisher and REI.

One relative newcomer to the trend is Crocs Inc. (Broomfield, Colo.), which announced plans in November to team up with online resale platform ThredUP (Oakland, Calif.) to launch its “Clean Out” resale program.

“Crocs shoes are incredibly durable and perfectly built for a second life, so encouraging customers to consider reuse is extremely important to us,” says Michelle Poole, Crocs’ Brand President. “Crocs and ThredUp are both committed to keeping products in use and out of landfills, and we’re thrilled to partner with ThredUp to reduce our environmental footprint and bring us one step closer to achieving our net zero goal by 2030 by taking action to create a more comfortable world.”

Earlier that same month, the U.S. unit of Netherlands-based IKEA announced plans to bring its “Buy Back & Resell Service” into 33 stores across the U.S. (The company is also rolling out a similar initiative in 20-plus other countries.)

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3 Trends That Will Positively Impact Retail in 2022

The big-box home furnishings retailer made the move to expand the program in the U.S. after a successful pilot program at its store in Conshohocken, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia.

“We are excited to share that the ‘Buy Back & Resell’ pilot in Conshohocken had positive results – 100 percent of product brought in was resold versus recycled,” says Jennifer Keesson, Country Sustainability Manager, IKEA U.S. “By expanding the service to more stores across the U.S., we hope to inspire more IKEA family members to participate and further showcase how sustainable living can be obtainable and affordable for the many.”

IKEA U.S. is also undertaking a green effort that will directly impact the look and layout of its stores by launching Sustainable Living Shops within all 52 of its stores nationwide. These dedicated sections, which will average about 540 square feet, will make it easier for customers to shop for sustainable products and provide solutions to making green living easier and more affordable, the retailer says.

IKEA’s Buy Back & Resell Service allows shoppers to trade in gently used merchandise for store credit.

IKEA’s Buy Back & Resell Service allows shoppers to trade in gently used merchandise for store credit.


IKEA is also taking part in a move by many retailers to forgo their cookie-cutter stores of the past and instead open stores bearing a distinctly local look.

For much of its history, IKEA stores have consisted of mega-warehouses – painted in the brand’s signature dark blue and yellow – that could be plopped down just about anywhere that could accommodate its huge footprint (average size: 350,000 square feet). But now, the retailing giant is evolving a more bespoke look for some of its outlets, especially those in urban markets, where available real estate tends to be smaller and pricier.

One high-profile example of this trend is a mixed-use complex anchored by a scaled-down IKEA store that’s in the works in the 6X6 Building in downtown San Francisco.

“Our urban projects are all about getting closer to our customers,” says Gerard Groener, General Manager of Ingka Centres, IKEA’s parent company. “6X6 is an impressive six-floor glass building, with smart modern design and internal areas that provide the ideal canvas to create something truly spectacular.”

Originally slated to open last fall, it has been postponed as IKEA tweaks the concept. “While we remain committed to the site, we have slowed down the process to ensure we design a location that aligns with our multichannel strategy and strengthens our approach to customer fulfillment,” a spokesperson for IKEA’s U.S. unit told VMSD.

When it does open, 6X6 will be Ingka Centres’ second mixed-use project in a downtown location, following the company’s acquisition of Kings Mall in London’s Hammersmith in 2020. The retailer is evaluating similar opportunities within 40 major cities across Europe, Russia, North America, Asia and Oceania. In the U.S., the company is actively targeting sites for similar smaller-format projects in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Other retailers are opting for the make-it-feel local approach. For example, as mentioned in the profile of Target Corp. (Minneapolis) published upon its again being named the 2021 VMSD/Peter Glen Retailer of the Year, many of its stores are incorporating local touches for the first time. (See “Bull’s-Eye, Again,” VMSD October 2021, pg. 21.) Such elements typically include locally sourced wood in guest service areas, as well as works by local artists adjacent to registers and on stores’ exteriors. The idea, says the retailer, is to engender a welcoming, inclusive environment.

Finally, it practically goes without saying – but we’ll say it here –that yes, the pandemic is going to continue having a variety of impacts on retailing and its practitioners. Among the top trends along those lines: Shoppers’ desire for quick, contactless checkouts and spaces designed with social distancing considerations in mind.

But in the interest of not adding to the cloud of Covid fatigue many of us are still shrouded in, we’ll leave a more detailed look at those topics for another day.

Meantime, Happy New Year!

📷:  Courtesy of Tenfold/Tenspace, Columbus, Ohio
📷:  Courtesy of Ikea U.S.



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HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

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