multi-purpose retail spaces

August 8th, 2022

Bricks-and-mortar stores are bastions for truly experiential moments.

The evolution of e-commerce has resulted in this retail device now offering a rich and multi-layered experience, yet it still lacks tangibility, leaving bricks-and-mortar stores as bastions for truly experiential moments.  Sports and lifestyle brands must work hard to both initiate and capture these moments in order to form, maintain, and develop valuable consumer-brand relationships.


One way that brands and retailers can support these moments is via multi-functional retail environments. So how can a brand create a multifunctional retail store? In this article we define what we mean by a “multi-functional retail environment”, explore their benefits for both customers and retailers alike, and delve into a handful of real-world examples from reputable brands to understand the weight of a multi-functional retail environments within the sports and lifestyle sector.

multi-purpose retail spaces

What is a multi-purpose retail store? 

A multi-purpose retail store is essentially a retail environment that has multiple functions and/or services that go beyond a store’s more traditional purpose of trade and transaction. Typically defined by three distinct features – disruption, omnichannel, and experiential – the multi-purpose retail store is a destination, rather than a stop-off.

multi-purpose retail store

What are the benefits of a multi-purpose retail store?

The sports and lifestyle sector is a fiercely competitive market, and brands are having to rethink their retail strategies due to ever-evolving shopping preferences and behaviours. In recent years, this has meant moving from a model of hyper-convenience to a “slow-tail” concept that puts education, entertainment, and activity at the forefront of design.

Upon creating a more experiential, interactive, and immersive brand experience, brands can offer an enhanced customer journey engendering increased dwell-time, basket spend, chances of return, and recommendations (perhaps through customers posting their experience on social media).

Furthermore, by incorporating a variety of functions into your store, it can help to attract a more diverse range of consumer profiles to your brand, thus expanding your target market.

How to create a multi-functional retail environment?

There is more than one way to tick the multi-functionality box! Here we explore five ways that sports and lifestyle brands can create outstanding multi-purpose retail spaces to strengthen consumer-brand relationships…

outstanding multi-purpose retail spaces

1- Through “Community Hubs”

Community Hubs within the sports and lifestyle sector might present as a communal area that taps into the wider lifestyle of the customer, encouraging customers to gather and share their experiences. Bricks-and-mortar retailers can create physical communities for new and loyal customers, alike, fostering a sense of belonging with others and a connection with the brand. Creating a physical space for your community can be achieved in several ways, however the one you choose must resonate best with the commonalities in the values of your customers and your brand.

Cycling aficionado, Rapha, does this really well. The cycling apparel and accessories’ brand has created a healthy, well-subscribed community, which has elevated its position in the industry and in the minds of professional athletes and leisure cyclists. The brand provides a lively cycle-club-combined-barista-coffee-shop culture, providing a rest stop moment for riders to meet and dwell, sign up to events such as group rides, and watch live cycling events.

outstanding multi-purpose retail spaces

2- By offering “Considered Care”

This particular type of service usually connotes to post-purchase, presenting as a service or product aftercare solution. Considered customer aftercare is multi-faceted. If done properly, it will consist of multiple actions and comms that take place after the sale to give assurance to your customers and ensure that they remain satisfied and engaged. It can also foster a strong relationship between the brand and a customer based on compassion and reliability, making the brand very appealing for customer’s future purchasing needs. This service may be offered online or in store, however bricks-and-mortar locations provide the opportunity for retailers to offer maintenance and repair services, or face-to-face advice about products or other sports-related enquiries.

Arc’teryx are an outdoor equipment company primarily selling specialist outdoor clothing, such as climbing gear for all climates, and hiking accessories. They offer a repair service even years after purchase, free of charge, on everything, from shoes, to bags, and jackets. They’re advocates of sustainability and promote a culture of repair and re-use, rather than the throwaway culture to which many of us have been conditioned.

multi-purpose retail environment

3- By incorporating educational experiences

Incorporating educational experiences into a retail setting can be invaluable for many brands, and the reasons are two-fold. Firstly, using your store to educate customers about the benefits of a product will undoubtedly increase purchasing confidence. Secondly, by displaying elements of the brand’s history or heritage, or messaging and comms that demonstrates an alliance to ethical or environmental causes, customers won’t just buy product, but they’ll buy into a brand and its narrative, too!

Triumph motorcycles have created a premium visitor experience that engages veteran petrol heads and newcomers alike. With equal parts of history and interesting engineering, the experience captivates its audience with awe-inspiring exhibits. Based at their factory in Hinckley, Leicestershire, the experience has become a major attraction for bikers across the UK, and encourages brand-fans to meet-up, engage in events, and discuss their favourite subject. With its culturally significant exhibits, the experience is a fantastic visit for those who want to learn more about the brand.

multi-purpose retail environment

4- By introducing personalisation stations

With 80% of shoppers saying they are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalised experiences (Modern Retail), personalisation stations should certainly be considered when designing a multi-functional retail environment. Personalisation is not only about generating sales, but it is also about connecting with consumers on a deeper level by curating an exclusive experience for every customer.

With NikeiD service, customers can fully customise almost any Nike trainer with just a few clicks. It was predominantly an online tool but there’s something to be said about seeing it happen in front on your eyes, in real life. Skateboarding-turned-lifestyle brand, Vans, offers just that in its Oxford Street store – a personalisation station where in-store artists hand paint designs onto Vans’ iconic canvas shoes. The quality is high, with a price point to match, but this instore event awarding exclusivity curates a more memorable shopping experience for buyers.

multi-functional retail environment

5- By curating “Trialling Labs”

Buying a product can sometimes be a bit of a gamble, especially when it comes to sporting and lifestyle apparel, equipment, footwear and accessories, where it’s all about improving performance.  To cut out the lengthy process and hassle of buying an item, testing the item away from the store, and then returning the item if it isn’t appropriate, some sports and lifestyle brands have introduced trialling labs into their stores, supporting this idea of a multi-functional retail environment. This enables customers to test out the sporting products whilst still in the decision-making stage, and make in-person comparisons between products, for a more informed purchase.

Similarly to some cycling brands providing a track within their store which allows for customers to test out and compare bikes, Nike’s Beijing store which exclusively sells basketball products is home to the Nike court experience so that basketball enthusiasts can test out their favourite shoes on the court, before their purchase.

In summary

Multi-functional environments can enhance your brand’s retail strategy and can be achieved in a number of ways, as outlined above. The types of touchpoints that you choose to implement in your store that go beyond the simply transactional will depend on what you are aiming to achieve, and of course, what will prove most beneficial to your customers. Are you looking to build deeper relationships with your customers? Expand your target market? Increase purchasing confidence among consumers? Be the beacon of a community? As retail continues to evolve, we anticipate to see more multi-functional environments adorning the highstreets as bricks-and-mortar stores are transformed into popular retail destinations.