Lululemon's new store creates a focal point for the local community, addressing the trend towards retail space acting as a 'hangout'. The brand's overhauled store on Edmonton's Whyte Avenue features innovative design with impressive, substantial wood fixtures and modifiable common areas allowing for collaboration, socialization, or even a place to work quietly. We took a number of high quality photos of the store and its features, specifically for this article.
The Whyte Avenue store was designed by Lululemon's in-house store designer, Alison Janzen, based on feedback from locals in the adjacent Old Strathcona area. Requests included space to "connect, share and sweat with eachother", according to Area Community Manager Lindsay Claydon. The resulting space features space for guests (as Lululemon calls its customers) to work, socialize, and even drink tea. Lululemon commissioned stunning fixtures for those purposes, including several movable solid-wood tables, stools, and wall fixtures.
“To create this community hub, we designed custom fixtures that are maneuverable and provide flexibility so the team can continually adjust the space to reflect the needs of the store for events and merchandising. We also added large live-edge communal tables from Peregrine to give guests a place to work and connect in the store” said store designer Alison Janzen.
We were immediately struck by the substantially thick wood used in many of the store's fixtures, and how many fixtures serve not to display product, but for customers to use for their own enjoyment. A series of movable 'collective tables' line the centre of the store, encouraging patrons to sit, socialize, or even work on their laptops. USB and electrical cord plugins are provided in the tables, which are made from 'live edge' finishes and lucite legs. Fixtures are movable so that they can be moved to host a local vendor market, a goal coaching workshop, wine tasting, or other activities. The wood used in these and other fixtures is Western Maple which was sustainably sourced from Vancouver Island, according to Vancouver-based Peregrine.
One of the wood tables hosted a pop-up shop from a community vendor, selling novel T-shirts reading "Silence is Luxurious" (see top photo). Lululemon tells us that its community strategy is decentralized, and that stores are individually responsible for creating experiences that resonate with guests and support their local communities.
We were also impressed by some of the store's other thick wood fixtures, also featuring 'live edge' finishes. Featured on the store's walls are the store's 'What's Happening Board' and 'Community Board', as well as a wall-mounted acrylic mirror framed in thick Western Maple over the store's cash desk. According to Lululemon, fixtures were designed by Alison Janzen and then manufactured by Peregrine. Peregrine, we're told, fabricates fixtures for some of Canada's top retailers.
While visiting the store, we observed several people meditating and doing yoga. Most were on floor mats, though one woman meditated on one of the substantial wood tables. Not long after, a young woman plugged in her laptop and was working at one of the central stations. All the while, the store's cash registers seemed to be ringing up substantial sales -- despite space being used for non-retail purposes, the store is still making money.
The Whyte Avenue store addresses a new trend: “These brands are taking a different view toward what a physical store does and aren't just looking at them as places for commerce,” says Neil Stern, a senior partner at retail consultancy McMillanDoolittle. “Everyone aspires to be Apple,” he says, referring to the stores' accommodating atmosphere that sees scores of people using the free Wi-Fi. “These brands want to be the place where you hang out.”
Using the space for alternative purposes is strategic, says retail expert Bridget Russo. Community collaboration and in-store events “are helpful in driving store traffic and ultimately sales,” she says, “but really it's about keeping the store active, becoming a brand people know and supporting other local businesses.” The strategy also tries to solve the problem of waning enthusiasm for brick-and-mortar shopping.
Given the hole left by declining neighbourhood institutions, the community store trend will continue to grow, McMillanDoolittle's Stern says. “These brands are trying to take their place and ingratiate themselves into the community in a smart way at a fairly low cost.”
For those wishing to view the new store in person, Lululemon's newly renovated Edmonton store is located at 10544 Whyte (82nd) Avenue. Its hours of operation are Monday-Friday 10:00am - 8:00pm, Saturday 10:00am - 6:00pm, and Sundays 11:00am - 5:00pm.