Experiences Versus Shops

Adidas unveils a four-level flagship in London, packed with tech-driven interactive experiences
Posted November 5, 2019

In London, Adidas (Herzogenaurach, Germany) has just opened what is claimed to be its most teched-up store to date and a quick scoot ‘round shows that it is indeed a thing of digital beauty. Whether you want to check stock, request a size or purchase in situ, all is possible in the four-floor, 27,000-square-foot emporium in the heart of the U.K. capital.

And there is much to distract. There is even a massive LED screen that allows fans of London’s Arsenal soccer team to take selfies of themselves running on to the pitch, meaning that this is not just a store with tech, it’s a tech sports store with local relevance.

All of which is to the good and surely means that this one can be branded an experience. But consider this, I’m just back from a trip to Shenzhen, the Chinese megalopolis immediately to the north of Hong Kong. There’s an Adidas flagship in Shenzhen as well, but the difference is that the digital bells and whistles are signally absent.

Instead, the Shenzhen store is a haven of relative peace, and there is a considerable focus on its status as, whisper who dares, a shop. On the day of visiting, people were buying things and taking time to examine the offer, which was displayed on low pieces of mid-shop equipment. As far as the digital side of things was concerned, there were a couple of smallish projections on the walls and a smattering of screens with ”mood” content. But it was still a shop.

Back in “Adidas LDN,” as it’s known, shoppers were too busy trying out the various in-store gadgets to be buying much, albeit they were having a good time and will probably spread the word. But ultimately, which is better, an experience or a shop? We are close to the tipping point. 

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.