Talking Brands: Pantone, Harry Potter and Corona have all launched physical stores. Which brand should be next?

Star Editions’ Will Marston looks at the world of branded stores, picking the brains of Louis Kennedy’s Nick Prichard and The Opinionated Designer’s Emma Horton for brands ripe for pop-ups.

For the likes of LEGO and Disney, their place on the High Street is well and truly cemented and their stores, in many ways, are now seen as a retail barometer to how well that town, city or shopping centre is performing.

Reading the recent news of the first ever Pantone store launching in Hong Kong and the world’s first Corona store landing at Mexico’s Cancun airport, it got me thinking – surely there are other brands that deserve their own retail space?

Will Marston, Star Editions
A dedicated physical store is certainly now seen as the next step for a lot of brands in terms of kudos and brand trajectory. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that these stores also act as a huge billboard for each brand – just look at M&M World’s current store locations since they opened their first store on the Las Vegas Strip in 1997. They also reside in Orlando, New York City, London and Shanghai.

Will Marston, Star Editions
These stores were once seen only as vanity projects, but are now serious commercial ventures and in terms of the all-important licensees, in many cases, they’re an extremely welcome customer to sell into and showcase their product.

One that jumps out for me would be a Monopoly store. Such an iconic brand and one of the most recognisable on the planet. I know the temptation would be to open this in Mayfair or Park Lane, but I actually think it would be more fun to look at Old Kent Road for this one!

Will Marston, Star Editions
So many of these ‘brand first’ physical stores seem to originate at or gravitate to the airport. Two brands that Star Editions are proud to work with, Miffy and Moomin, both have an airport store in Schiphol and Helsinki respectively, and this makes perfect sense.

Each brand has become synonymous with their country of origin and so not only is there a commercial reason for Miffy and Moomin to be there, but they are also quite literally, from a tourism perspective, acting as “the face” of the airport and the brand ambassador for their country.

Will Marston, Star Editions
Some more obvious suggestions might be a Marvel store, a DC Comics shop, or a Star Wars store – can you believe these don’t already exist in the UK as standalone stores? I’m going to stick my neck out and say this is because Forbidden Planet do too great a job here to make these viable!

Certainly, for any brands out there pondering whether a bricks and mortar store front would be beneficial, it’s now easier than ever to dip your toe into the choppy retail waters. Pop-ups are the perfect opportunity to see if your brand has enough pull to bring in the big bucks.

Everyone and anyone who’s anyone is doing it! Hello Kitty Café, New Balance Pub, Polaroid Lab, Ruinart Champagne hotel, Tiffany Ice Rink and even a Magnum Pleasure Store. Here’s a clip of the brilliant Magnum pop-up in action, but do Google them all, they are each as fantastic as they sound!

It would be remiss of me to not mention online stores right now, not least because for Star Editions, I am part of the team that manages, builds and runs the official Print on Demand web shops for over 30 brands. This is now the fastest moving and fastest growing sector that I have ever seen within the licensing world, with brands and partners realising that they can own their own online retail space, without any of the day to day running costs. This really is a no-brainer for smaller and larger brands alike, with such a low-cost entry point and an instant worldwide audience.

With these more accessible entry points into retail, I expect – and hope – that many more brands will follow suit and ramp up their D2C presence.

Who do you think is missing a trick by not having their very own store and retail space? Which brand would you travel halfway across the world to visit their dedicated brand store?

Louis Kennedy’s Nick Prichard and The Opinionated Designer’s Emma Horton were kind enough to share their thoughts…

Nick Prichard, Louis KennedyNick Prichard, Development Director, Louis Kennedy

At a time when the High Street is full of shuttered store fronts and ‘For Sale’ signs, any new store has to be sure it can attract buyers. There has to be an audience ready to spend from day one, combined with the potential to grow that audience going forward.

On the example mentioned by Will, youngsters entering the ‘Harry Potter stage of life’ add to the legions of existing fans, everyone wants to be a designer these days so Pantone is known well beyond studios and well, we all want to be on the beach with a Corona or branded towel!

Louis Kennedy recommends adding to these successes with a Subbuteo Store, based on the iconic “flick to kick” table game from the 1960s and 1970s.

It will appeal from day one to the kids of those days, now entering retirement age, with free time and disposable income to spare. Handled correctly it can grow to appeal to the ever-expanding legions of football fans, be they “legacy” – as die-hard supporters now seem to be referred to – or the global markets chased by the likes of the doomed ESL!

There is massive potential for an innovative licensing exploitation of many aspects of the game from the iconic player pieces to the ancillary add-ons. Plus, in-store tournaments can add a real experiential vibe before the digital gurus take the possibilities on screen.

Such global possibilities will definitely last longer than the 48 hours that other football related initiatives seem to last these days!

Will Marston, Star Editions

Emma Horton, The Opinionated DesignerEmma Horton, Designer and Creative Consultant, The Opinionated Designer

In the ever-evolving world we live in, where the lines of fashion, art, culture and digital are becoming more and more blurred, I would love to see a full physical concept store from Highsnobiety.

Such a source of inspiration and information in the industry, I would love to see them fully come to life and be at the forefront of the physical, as well as the digital, world.

The Co.Lab, a pop-up retail concept they curated at Selfridges back in January 2020, was a perfect example of talking directly to your audience and of storytelling within a physical environment.

Will Marston, Star Editions
Their extensive knowledge of the industry and constant finger on the pulse with brands has resulted in some awesome collaborations. One of my most recent faves is the Highsnobiety drop engineered to sit alongside the launch of the latest Adidas ZX 8000 sneakers. It hones in on the clean and paired back aesthetic, and alongside it sits a collection of Highsnobiety hoodies, t shirts and accessories to complete a full look in one stop.

The story of the new age of retail and the physical shopping experience is going to keep iterating and with it, the way that brands and retailers of all aspects look at the consumer experience.

Excitingly, this can open up the way for any digital platform with an already huge following to enter the physical market in new and innovative ways.

Will Marston, Star Editions
Thanks again to Emma and Nick for some great suggestions there!

Let me know who you think should be next? Or do you think that online is now the more sensible place for these brands to exist in their own sphere? I would love to hear your thoughts and can be contacted at [email protected].

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