Retail stores aren’t known for being the most tech-forward environments. In fact, “brick-and-mortar” is perhaps the least innovative sounding term ever.
But as e-commerce continues to cut into the retail pie, many brands are using their stores to out-innovative their online counterparts, leveraging their physical spaces to sell a more progressive, disruptive, and engaging image, on top of a few products, too. And given Chicago’s rich history in architecture and its recent tech boom, it’s no surprise that the city is home to a number of retail spaces that incorporate cutting-edge technology into the best shopping experiences.
From Comcast’s flagship to a spy store cover-up, here are the most innovative retail shops in Chicago:
Studio XFINITY: (901 W Weed St.)
Opened in May, Studio XFINITY is Comcast’s first-ever prototype retail store, designed to bring the brand’s promise of “entertainment and connectivity, anytime, anywhere” to life. Located on Weed Street, Studio XFINITY has three 12×7-foot LED screens and theater-style seating for customers to play single or multi-player games. The space also has a 107-foot-long LED media band that shoppers can broadcast live or on-demand content to and ‘demonstration towers’ where customers can pull up one-on-one demos of new services.
AT&T Store: (600 N Michigan Ave.)
AT&T’s 10,000 square-foot flagship store on Michigan Ave was designed to serve as a physical representation of its 2012 advertising campaign – “It’s what you do with what we do.” That’s why the space is completely hands-on, with a space for creating and streaming live music and an interactive model car that allows shoppers to experience how AT&T can help them monitor, navigate and drive safely. The brick-and-mortar also has an area called The Gallery that showcases local artists and exclusive accessories featuring their artwork.
Verizon’s Destination Store: (840 N Michigan Ave.)
The largest Verizon brick-and-mortar in the country, the carrier’s 10,000 square-foot Mag Mile ‘Destination Store’ is billed as a “technology retail playground.” In the two-story store, shoppers can play on a motion-sensor LED screen and test fitness wearables via a stationary bike and a treadmill. Also, throughout the store are seven “Lifestyle Zones,” allowing customers to engage with specific offerings, including the Have Fun zone for gamers and the Anywhere Business zone for entrepreneurs.
Under Armour’s Brand Shop: (600 N Michigan Ave.)
The largest Under Armour store in the country, the company’s 30,000 square-foot ‘Brand Shop’ has a five-sided video screen, a ‘wearables bar’ to showcase its own fitness tracking systems, and a variety of interactive games for kids, like a screen that measures how high someone can jump.
Moto Shop: (108 N. State St.)
Motorola’s first-ever experiential “boutique,” the 2,500 square-foot Moto Shop is an intimate, interactive pop-up designed to spotlight the unique features of some its buzziest products, like the DROID Turbo 2 and the Moto 360. For example, the store has a space where you can drop the “unbreakable” DROID on a variety surfaces.
Jordan Store: (32 S State St.)
Open since early October, the new Jordan Store combines basketball and retail, with “Michael Jordan-inspired and hand-picked merchandise” on the ground floor and a basketball court and gym on the second floor that’s only open to “invited guests.” A Nike pop-up, this is the first Michael Jordan-only store in the country.
826 Chicago: (1276 N Milwaukee Ave)
826 Chicago, a nonprofit tutoring & writing center, has a retail section in the front of the store dedicated to “spy stuff.” At the Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co., shoppers can find espionage-inspired gag gifts, like fake mustaches and grappling hooks. All proceeds go to support 826CHI’s programming.
BoomBox: (1260 N. Milwaukee Mautene Court)
Activate! Chicago, a new partnership between the City of Chicago and architecture firm Latent Design, is behind the BoomBox, a prefabricated micro retail kiosk that can be easily installed in high-volume public spaces. BoomBox is designed to “providing retail opportunities for local entrepreneurs and community activators” and one is currently on display in WickerPark. Now through November, 29th, the Read/Write Library is using a BoomBox for a pop-up library.
Though Eately and Latinicity function primarily as elevated food courts, both spaces weave retail sections and grocery shopping throughout their lineup of pop-up restaurants and kiosks. Shoppers come hungry and leave with their shopping bags full.
Still in its concept stage, the proposed Apple Store at Pioneer Court would be designed to to be a “high-tech version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s quintessentially Midwestern Prairie Style homes.” Shoppers would enter the store at the ground level on Michigan and then head immediately downward to the main sales floor along the river. The Tribune has an early look at the renderings.
(Images via YouTube and SparkOnline.com)