January 7th, 2021

Design 4Retail

Local relevance


2020 forced consumers to shop closer to home, bringing localism as a movement into the mainstream. Continued supply chain disruption, localised lockdowns, and travel constraints could see increasingly regionalised distribution of products. Understanding and responding to what is important to a city or even neighbourhood’s specific needs at any time will be vital to a brand’s ability to deliver a retail experience that resonates with consumers. Empathy and the ability to flexibly react to changes in demand will be key in ensuring a localised strategy for stores, in future retail experiences should work hard to be community first.

88% of consumers worldwide expect newfound community connections to remain intact post-pandemic (Stylus,2020). Being smart lean, and agile at a local level will help brands be better equipped to adapt to change. Producing locally, keeping inventory flexible with demand, and identifying what is important to the locality customer are the foundations of a sustainable strategy.
Stores are also increasingly becoming spaces for brand-broadcasting, responsible for creating their own social media and marketing content. A growing gap between consumers and brands’ marketing has driven a rise of community-led platforms where knowledge, advice, and support are openly shared.

Responding to the increased consumer desire for localism, Nike is introducing a new format to their store portfolio: Nike Unite. Building on the brand’s existing concepts, the format will act as a ‘community centrepiece’. Product selection, store layout and location, staff and community partnerships will all be chosen with a focus on locality.

Nike Unite stores will be situated in suburbs and smaller cities. In store the concepts will showcase local culture and people, elevating a platform for local heroes instead of global ambassadors. At each location, a community wall will champion the store and local teams, and throughout design elements will highlight neighbourhood connections encouraging visitors to explore the area.

Each Nike Unite shop will build community connections with local sponsorships and partnerships with initiatives such as staff being able to train as sports coaches as part of Nike’s Community Ambassador programme.

Brands will should no longer aim for brand uniformity in retail spaces; but carefully think about the ways in which their customers can experience a unique sense of place.

Celebrate & support


After an unprecedented year, many small businesses are struggling, but there have been a number of new initiatives designed to give platform to these small operations, empowering them to connect with customers and each other. DTC promotion department store Neighborhood Goods launched ‘The Commons’, a free platform for independent creators to sell, exhibit, and embed with local communities.

By building on the platform of the physical store, the venture aims to use their power and reach to reinvigorate small businesses. More than ever it is important for brands with power to utilise this, to show solidarity and ensure that communities have space to create and to come together.

Responding to the increased consumer desire for more localised community initiatives, Foot Locker launched the ‘Raise the Game’ platform which celebrates and supports grassroots basketball across London, Paris, Barcelona, and Milan. The brand will provide teams with new kits, refurbish courts, and pay homage to local sporting heroes in consultation with local organisations in all four cities. In London, Foot Locker’s Brixton store will raise awareness of a local hero with a memorial to the late Jimmy Rogers, founder of local team Brixton Topcats. Topcats branded merchandise will be available to buy at the Brixton branch, with proceeds going to the club.

Nearby, Clapham Common court will be renovated in an initiative led by the sport’s governing body and UK basketball news website Hoopsfix. London-based street artist Sevian Witter, a former Topcats player, will design basketball kits that will be gifted to south London players.

Eyewear brand Warby Parker is another great example of this kind of circular and reciprocal activity between local inspiration and celebration. When the brand opens new stores, local artists are invited to create bespoke murals. In collaborating and giving freedom to young artists, the brand experience feels authentic and surprising. Since 2014 the Warby Parker Visionary Scholarship has also made grants to 2D artists who demonstrate conceptual, material, and technical inventiveness.

To be authentic brands must support culture, not hijack it. Great initiatives take inspiration from a brand’s people and customers as well as actively seeking out the new.

To be authentic brands must support culture, not hijack it.



Local stores bring variety and personality to high streets and uplift the local community. Larger brands and retailers can learn from these small players how to provide real connection to the community they inhabit. One core learning is how the local retailer’s human interaction with, and pride in, their own small community circle uplifts their local environment and provides more satisfying customer engagements.

This year has seen a number of activations and concepts from global brands that focus in on small segments of their customers to deliver perfectly tailored moments and services to delight on a micro-regional or micro-demographic level.

‘The My City Unlocked’ experience designed for the launch of Hyundai’s latest vehicle features local artists across a number of US cities, each taking Spotify users on a virtual tour of their hometown with a curated playlists of music and video, alongside a branded podcast: ‘Unlock My City With…’. The campaign successfully delivers a personable localism with the aim of shining a light on local culture and creators instead of relying on the draw of global artists.

Responding to recent e-commerce boom, Swedish payment solutions provider Klarna has re-imagined the familiar parcel locker with a multi-purpose modular system. Whilst primarily designed for parcel delivery, the Modular Mailbox is also capable of supporting the local sharing economy as well as helping consumers to recycle. The Modular Mailbox is a large, brightly coloured assemblage of various compartment sections with each having a different purpose.

As well as parcel storage, the modules can be used as sharing boxes, allowing locals to pool resources such as tools, books or even food at their own convenience. A recycling module allows consumers to dispose of hard-to-process materials such as fabric or plastic. Klarna also suggests that partner brands (such as H&M, Nike, and Samsung) could develop branded modules. This could lead to the lockers being purposed as mini store fronts specific to their locality needs such as fresh produce stores, or a tiny boutique for a new shoe collection, for example.


Sports brand adidas relaunched their Confirmed app to deliver a keener focus on community, creativity, and storytelling for its users. The relaunched app provides users with access to new drops, behind the scenes stories, and collaborative partnerships letting adidas fans feel part of the brand’s creator community. By curating this micro community within the overarching brand ecosystem, the brand positions itself as more of a peer and curator than a retail brand, responding to consumers who increasingly seek more personal and conversational interactions with their brands.

In the future our high streets and local neighbourhoods could work with global brands to create community hubs on a micro-level. Brands will need to define their place in consumers’ lives as more than just product creators, and serve a more holistic set of customer demands that vary by locality.

What’s trending?

Towards the end of the month we will be releasing an insight report evaluating the activity and ideas that we’ve seen flourish in 2020, bringing together our predictions for the most important trends that will impact the retail landscape and consumer behaviours in 2021. If you’d like to receive the insight report, 2021 Retail Predictions, by email when it it’s released, you can do this by clicking the ‘Subscribe to receive our Retail Insight Reports’ link at the bottom of this page.