Prada is expanding on the "Prada Silver Line" pop-up program with "Prada Spirit," a new retail project that will premier at the Galaxy Mall in Macau on Jan. 20 and last for about a month during the Chinese New Year.
"Prada Spirit" is an effort to present exclusive products in a unique concept location, where the customer "can socialize in a relaxed and luxurious atmosphere," according to a company blog post. In Macau and, soon in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore and Seoul, the spaces feature comfortable lounges, furnished with red velvet sofas. "Menus" feature the items for sale, which include a selection of women's luxury bags and accessories.
The concept is a reimagining of the American Streamliners of the '30s and '50s, with walls covered in floral red silk brocade. Life-size Prada Robots become porters pushing luggage trolleys, and the ticket kiosk turns into a concierge to organize visits to the pop-up store and deliver purchases to customers' homes, according to a company blog post.
In the past decade or so, pop-up retail has been honed to a near-scientific art and used by chain stores, brands and e-commerce companies to test new products and ideas. Although the pop-up format does take investment and planning, it doesn't require the long-term buy-in that establishing a traditional store does.
Leave it to a luxury brand to take that idea to 11, though. Prada's Silver Line and Silver Spirit projects demonstrate just how good luxury often is at physical retail. One explanation, perhaps, is that they can afford it, although it's likely more true that they must. Upscale customers come with upscale expectations, after all.
That makes e-commerce tricky for these brands because it's much more difficult to forge such high-key, high-touch personal experiences in the digital ether. There's no red velvet or floral silk brocade wallpaper in the cloud. Still, in recent months, luxury brands and their conglomerate owners are increasingly making an effort to improve the online experience.
In recent years, big luxury players have made concerted efforts to improve merchandising and operations, with special attention, at long last, to online sales. Just on Monday, Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, commonly known as Richemont, said it would snap up the rest of online luxury retailer Yoox Net-A-Porter for €2.8 billion euros, or about $3.4 billion.
LVMH in November shuffled its executive suite for a 'new era,' after previously ditching its more middle of the road Donna Karan brand and taking steps to elevate its Christian Dior brand and its e-commerce operations across the board. Kering has made similar moves, most recently unloading Puma to focus on more upscale brands. And Coach rebranded as "Tapestry" in October, reflecting its intentions to be a multi-brand entity newly re-focused on upscale customers.
It's all made for "an exciting 12 months for luxury e-retail," according to Jessica Wolfe, a Principal in A.T. Kearney's retail practice. "I am excited to see what this means for the Yoox Net-a-Porter family of sites and how Richemont can apply its expertise in creating a luxury experience to the online world," she told Retail Dive in an email, adding that these actions show that luxury retailers believe that kind of shopping will increasingly move online as more millennial and Gen Z shoppers come into their own.