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Episode 48: Richard Lems

“The Rituals of Home and Body Cosmetics,” with Richard Lems, Director, Format and Design, Rituals Cosmetics





Rituals is retail brand whose stores are built on ancient narratives and traditions and made contemporary with modern technology. Their stores are a sensory experience that starts with a cup of tea, a hand washing ritual and then an exploration of the product assortment. Richard Lems is Director Format and Design and has lead the evolution of the store concept to a fleet of over 800 location in 33 countries. Host David Kepron and Lems talk about Rituals, store design and creating fans.


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Website: (Company)



About 12 years ago, I was visiting Amsterdam and spent days wandering the city, eating stroop waffles, pancakes, drinking coffee and shopping along the Kalverstraat.

The Kalverstraat is one of the main shopping streets in the city center of Amsterdam. It’s more like an outdoor pedestrian mall jammed with the retail stores of well-known international and home-grown Dutch brands as well as independent retailers.


My preferred approach to exploring an unknown city is generally given to wander about, sometimes down alleys, looking through fences or over walls into hidden courtyards. It’s mostly about discovery. Looking for things that other tourists may not find and connecting to the local nature of a place.

I remember coming to a corner and an open door invited me into a store I was unfamiliar with.

Crossing the threshold, I stepped away from the rush of the crowd and entered into to another world.

It looked homey. Warm and cozy.

Perimeter wall units were illuminated with colorful frames, each identifying a specific category of merchandise.

And…it smelled great!


I didn’t know the Rituals brand but my first experience, 12 plus years ago, is easy to recall with a vivid sensory-based memory.

I liked the store’s name, since I have had a fascination with the idea of rituals, what they mean, how they are enacted, whether participating directly in them versus being an observer had any effect on their relevance.

I spent the next half hour sampling fragrances, learning about ancient rituals upon which the products were based, the products’ ingredients and how they had an effect on our body and mind.

And of course, I bought bags of products home.

The smell of spray bottles that stayed in a bathroom drawer for a while after they were emptied, brought me back to the street corner, the city of Amsterdam, the food and the friends I met while there.

From a neuroscientific point to view, scent is deeply connected to memories. Scents can quickly affect mood.


That’s why realtors suggest that baking cookies or bread when you are about to show your home is a good thing; because it activates emotions and nostalgic memories that make people feel more relaxed and draw a connection to a sense of comfort and security.

These are all good feelings to engender when trying to sell your home.

It’s an interesting connection – the body and the home. More interesting still that a company like Rituals has made the connection between the body, the home and cosmetics. And in doing so, they have tapped into the basic idea that good retailing isn’t just about the products, or services, but in the end about emotions.

“If you can get to the emotions,” says Richard Lems, the Director of Format and Design for Rituals, you create fans rather than just customers.

While everyone else was following the ‘pile ‘em high and watch ‘em fly’ mentality to retailing years ago, Rituals was working to sell emotion. Engendering feelings that were attached to ancient stories, the practices of ayruveda, or a hammam, or the rituals of Sakura have become the experiential foundation for Rituals stores.

Behind every product there is a deeper meaning, a deeper story based on ancient traditions and they are made contemporary with Western technologies.

For Lems, there is no disconnect between the home and the body.

You know that expression ‘Home is where your heart is”? Well, for Rituals, home, body, heart, soul are all connected. They are in a reciprocal feedback loop, interconnected and interdependent. One influences the other.

Like with my strategy of discovering a city, Rituals believes that the discovery process leads customer experiences in their stores. It may start from the street, lead to a cup of tea and hand washing to exploring their assortment.

Richard Lems explains that Rituals “innovation is on a very high level.” They are constantly innovating with new products and experiences like meditation chambers in their new flagship store in Amsterdam – built 100 meters away from the store I stumbled upon years ago.

And while the Rituals brand has a robust social platform on on-line store that fulfills orders all over the world, Lems believes that the only way to really feel them, smell them, and touch them is in store.

The Rituals store is the nexus of ancient stories and practices, products and people. It is the physical touchpoint where product presentation and the hospitality of store associates brings the narratives to life.


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David Kepron is a multifaceted creative professional with a deep curiosity to understand ‘why’, ‘what’s now’ and ‘what’s next’. He brings together his background as an architect, artist, educator, author, podcast host and builder to the making of meaningful and empathically-focused, community-centric customer connections at brand experience places around the globe.

David is a former VP – Global Design Strategies at Marriott International. While at Marriott, his focus was on the creation of compelling customer experiences within Marriott’s “Premium Distinctive” segment which included: Westin, Renaissance, Le Meridien, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord hotels.

In 2020 Kepron founded NXTLVL Experience Design, a strategy and design consultancy, where he combines his multidisciplinary approach to the creation of relevant brand engagements with his passion for social and cultural anthropology, neuroscience and emerging digital technologies.

As a frequently requested international speaker at corporate events and international conferences focusing on CX, digital transformation, retail, hospitality, emerging technology, David shares his expertise on subjects ranging from consumer behaviors and trends, brain science and buying behavior, store design and visual merchandising, hotel design and strategy as well as creativity and innovation. In his talks, David shares visionary ideas on how brand strategy, brain science and emerging technologies are changing guest expectations about relationships they want to have with brands and how companies can remain relevant in a digitally enabled marketplace.

David currently shares his experience and insight on various industry boards including: VMSD magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board, the Interactive Customer Experience Association, Sign Research Foundation’s Program Committee as well as the Center For Retail Transformation at George Mason University.

He has held teaching positions at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), the Department of Architecture & Interior Design of Drexel University in Philadelphia, the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (L.I.M.) in New York, the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Montreal and he served as the Director of the Visual Merchandising Department at LaSalle International Fashion School (L.I.F.S.) in Singapore.

In 2014 Kepron published his first book titled: “Retail (r)Evolution: Why Creating Right-Brain Stores Will Shape the Future of Shopping in a Digitally Driven World” and he is currently working on his second book to be published soon. David also writes a popular blog called “Brain Food” which is published monthly on


The next level experience design podcast is presented by VMSD magazine and SmartWork Media. It is hosted and executive produced by David Kepron. Our original music and audio production by Kano Sound. 

The content of this podcast is copyright to David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design. Any publication or rebroadcast of the content is prohibited without the expressed written consent of David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design.

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