SKP and others are the future
The Financial Times considers the future of department stores and in particular the future of department store buildings. There has been a plethora of obituaries of the format in recent years which has reached a peak as the covid pandemic was sometimes seen as the last nail in the coffin. However, many are thriving and beginning to pick up after remarkable adaptations to restrictions on their activities. In some cases, the buildings themselves are being revisited and transformed such as the 70 000 sqm Samaritaine in Paris due to reopen this month after 15 years, as a retail, hotel and residential complex. The design and architecture is key if the purpose of the store is no longer uniquely the merchandise it offers which is now almost ubiquitous online, but includes also the presentation, and the experience of the store visit, as it was in the original department stores. The article mentions Selfridges, of course, but also some of the more adventurous projects including SKP-S in Beijing, offering sci-fi fantasy among other things. Stores like this are no longer imitating western models but are truly leading future thinking in retail. Another trend has been the smaller size local stores which capitalise on engagement from local communities.