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Arket's Creative Director Ulrika Bernhardtz talks about the new concept of physical stores


Retail is seeing a surge in creativity as its role changes to dynamic maker of experiences, evoker of emotion, mother of inspiration. Just before the launch of Arket's new store in London's Regent Street, we spoke to Ulrika Bernhardtz about how the pioneering brand is redefining space. Ulrika began elaborating on the concept for Arket in January 2015 together with Lars Axelsson, in order to challenge the role of regular bricks-and-mortar store concepts. 



The new Arket store in London's Regent Street / Credits: ARKET 


How is the concept of the physical store changing, and how does Arket’s bricks-and-mortar iteration reflect these trends?

The biggest change in the concept and role of the physical store is that, along with the digital store, it now becomes one component of a larger whole. Our starting point for Arket’s physical and digital stores was to pin down the unique strengths of each. Then we accentuated those strengths to form complementary parts of a single concept rather than force one to mimic the other. We concluded that the physical store must be a place where customers feel at ease and are happy to spend time.The typical retail calculation traditionally considers empty space a wasted opportunity, but we found just the opposite to be true. So we have sought to create breathing space that helps customers easily find what they’re looking for. We view our store as a modern-day market, a destination that unites abroad, carefully edited assortment and a café under one roof.


What role does the Arket café have in thecreation of more experiential modes of shopping?

The café brings another layer to the brand, deepening and widening it. Food offers another kind of experience, another mode for expressing our values – one often missing in precisely those locations where we’ll typically establish our stores. We believe that it can add warmth to a store, and that its street face will provide a welcome break from traditional shop windows. The café is founded on the New Nordic Food Manifesto and its vision of quality ingredients and healthy living. Our chef Martin Berg, one of the movement’s main proponents, sees Arket as a great opportunity to democratize something previously associated mainly with fine dining.  



Swedish shell: the space of the Malmö Konsthall


What is the interplay between both real-world and online spaces and your goal to the democratize quality?

Arket’s mission – to democratize quality – will ultimately be accomplished by our offering of exceptionally long-lasting and well-made products, whether they’re purchased online or in a physical store.But this requires the accessibility of the products to a broad customer base.Opening our online store in 18 markets from launch will give access to customers who haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit one of our physical stores. For those who do visit, the two will complement each other. The physical store will, among many other things, provide an easy overview and the café, as well as an opportunity to speak to our staff and, most importantly, to see, touch and try on the products. The online store will offer easy navigation of our online Archive, with its richly descriptive texts and images. 

Where do you find inspiration when creating new spaces?Are there any brands or individuals that stand out?

We are inspired by finding new solutions to the practical challenges posed by the Arket project. Two of them were to create the breathing space I spoke about before and to devise an uncomplicated and flexible way of presenting and editing our broad assortment. These and other challenges led us to the Archive concept, our starting point for the physical store as well as the entire brand. Rather than focusing on other brands, we took inspiration from places that dealt with these same challenges – museums, archives and storage systems. Two notable examples were the Malmö Konsthall, with its shell that can be adapted to suit the needs of each exhibition, and Paris’sNational Archives, which houses its vast collection in a variety of packages constructed from simple, functional materials and uses an item labelling system that doubles as navigation, eliminating the need for complicated directions.




How do you lay the groundwork for an effective and successful physical presence? What are the key factors in preparing to launch?

The key is to find the right locations. They need to offer a visually stimulating space and architecture – or the potential for it –as well as strong infrastructure for implementing our concept. We have been very lucky so far. The stores we’re opening this autumn all have unique qualities, but it is essential for everything to fit together as a single concept – brand identity, collection, store experience – and to exhibit a clear common thread. This is being achieved by a fantastically talented team of designers, chefs, architects, buyers, writers and many others, all working together towards a common goal as they share their expertise and experience.

27 / 02 / 2018 // by LigaStudios Team

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