In terms of the built environment and its evolution, the advent of the online shopping experience has meant that many physical retailers have a far harder time competing. Shopfront overheads are often too great for many in this industry, forcing retailers to think of innovative ways to stay afloat.
While it is common for built retailers to move online in order to compete with their virtual counterparts, it is not often that the situation is reversed.
However, one online retailer has brought a built foundation to its business by developing its very own headquarters in Manhattan. Online retailer net-a-porter specialises in high-end fashion, with the site offering a plethora of women’s fashion and accessories. The success of the online business has necessitated a physical office setting and New Jersey distribution centre, leading to a transition off-line.
Designed by London-based design firm Studiofibre, the headquarters for the online retailer plays up the notion of the inversion and contradiction of a virtual business coming into the built realm with strongly juxtaposing design elements. This can be seen through the mix of masculine and feminine influences, the contrasting monochromatic colour scheme and the juxtaposition of ultra-modern fittings and furnishings and the heritage wall and roof moldings.
While this kind of interior design scheme bears the risk of clashing or coming off too strong, the light-handed, minimalist approach used by the designers creates a space that is ‘a fresh, beautiful, virtual empire’ according to fashion bible Vogue magazine.
The idea of playing up the contradictory nature of the virtual mixing with the built will surely set the standard for future online retailers.
Retailers have had to become smarter. The competition in the built world – especially for unknown brands – is rife, with many simply not able to stay afloat. That does not, however, have to mean the end of the built retail zone. As with all new things, the built retailing world is evolving ever so slowly, eliminating the fears that the industry will lost their importance to the retail sector.