Many people argue that the age of brick and mortar stores is long behind us. If you start investigating the matter, perhaps many articles will try and convince you that you don’t need to invest in physical retail anymore.

But that’s not the case. Brick and mortar still matters. You have to create a continuous experience for your customers and you need to try and be everywhere for everyone.

According to John Ryan from NewStores, good looking stores are more important than online stores. And this is, to a huge extent, true. When people enter a physical store, they are left with a more temporary feeling than when they visit an online store. If you try and aim for a revolutionary physical store idea, everybody will remember the brand behind it.

This is why I decided to gather the most inspiring brick and mortar stores around the world that I know of. Have a look and get inspired for the physical piece of business you occupy or want to occupy in the world.

Alibaba, Hangzhou, China

Alibaba is trying hard to catch up with Amazon’s revolutionary ideas. And they’re booming with creativity. They’ve opened a store in Hangzhou which is something between a physical and an online store.  There is no staff around, only facial recognition. Customers can scan QR codes and pay with their phone without having to wait in line.

But what makes this brick and mortar store special is its “Happy Go” happiness meter, which urges customers to smile to receive discounts – the bigger the smile, the better the discount. Brilliant.

woman smiling at a happy go happiness meter in alibaba(Source)

Fooby, Lausanne, Switzerland

physical store fooby

Fooby is a true experience for food lovers. Everybody says so. The building is a former theatre and the setting inside gives the impression that food is being worshipped inside this store’s doors. You can get involved in the process of your food being delivered and experience real homemade urban cuisine.

Fooby is all about going to a store and slowing down. It’s a food hall where you can also pay with your phone. But what it offers is so much more than just a cashless store adventure. It shows the real character of the brand and what a good attitude towards food should look like.

Gramm.Genau, Frankfurt, Germany

Whether you support the cause of a plastic-free world or not, Frankfurt definitely needs a store where everything is zero-waste and they embrace these kinds of ideas to the fullest. This is why Gramm.Genau is so famous in Germany. It’s a store with a mission and this is the main reason I chose to showcase it in this list. Because what is more inspiring than the mission behind that drives a whole business?

the gramm genau cafe setup

Gramm.Genau have both a store and a café. In their store, everything they offer is “unpacked”. They put it in recycled bags for you and they never use plastic. Recently, they even launched their online store which also delivers plastic-free products.

Customers can buy everything that usually comes in plastic packaging, even soap, and shampoo.  The Gramm.Genau café is also designed to be friendly to the environment.

Have a look around their little “saving the planet” mission here. 

Harrods, UK

Moving from food to a whole different category – cosmetics. I’d like to show you a store where you could spend one full day without getting tired of the place. It’s the Beauty Hall at Harrods that opened its doors recently.

What’s so special about it is that it’s an old-fashioned hall that offers all kinds of in-store services. And not just concerning beauty and fashion but also food. Different restaurants offer a variety of cuisines after you’re done with your Moroccan spa or the Chanel London Studio.

You can get special costume tailoring, get your measurements or even browse in the Hall’s Gallery.  The place offers it all that there even exists an application to help you plan your day at Harrods. Talk about a real going in and slowing down experience…

Starbuck Reserve Roastery, New York City, USA


Whatever it is you’re doing, including and involving the customer in the process of creating it is always an incredible idea that leaves a permanent impression. Starbucks has always known how to do this with their roasteries all over the world.

The reason I am sharing particularly this one in NYC is because of a coffee machine that has a little camera inside which turns the cream art on your cappuccino into an image of you. Literally…

John Ryan from NewStores experienced this a few years back. He didn’t know what was happening until they gave him his cup and much to his  surprise a cappuccino John was staring back at him. Here is what this art looked like.

cappuccino art

Rockets & Rascals, Plymouth, UK

I would love to share with you another store with a mission. It’s a simple mission actually, nothing like saving the world from plastic. Rockets&Rascals‘ mission is to help people fall in love with cycling. It’s a bike store combined with a café. Inside, they sell high-quality bikes along with ride accessories.

barista sipping coffee in rockets & rascals

What’s extremely special about it is that it builds a community with the help of its loyalty program. Everytime a shopper spends money in Rockets&Rascals, they earn points. The purpose of this is that if a friendly bicyclist has  forgotten his wallet, he can come inside and enjoy a cup of coffee by just giving his name to the cashier. That’s how you build trust and create a community.

The setup of the store is also a cozy place for bicyclists, which contributes to the vibe.

I hope these stores have inspired you to go beyond your limits and offer an experience that will stay in the minds of your customers. There are many ideas for brick and mortar stores out in the world. Find your spark and from there on, try and be different and true to your brand. I think the above examples showcase exactly this.

Feel free to share with us other brick and mortar examples that inspired you.

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