Although in recent years technology has revolutionized the way of consuming and the world of retail, the pandemic is also contributing to an evolution of the sector and to new forms and trends. In this sense, in the retail of the future, multifunctional spaces will be very important.


After becoming the cathedrals of capitalism at the end of the 20th century, shopping malls began a decline in the face of the generational push of e-commerce. Although the weight of these businesses continues to be vital in economies and societies around the world, unstoppable growth has been questioning the future of retail for years and increasingly brings us closer to multifunctional spaces.

Shopping malls, needless to say, are not ghosts of the past. But they need to collect and implement new trends to adapt to the new times. Creating a concept that responds to the spirit of each era is its main objective in the short and medium term.

These changes are already required since the pandemic. Covid-19 has greatly changed the way people shop, surely forever. The overwhelming success of e-commerce is here to stay, so retail will never be the same again.

With the closure of establishments and limitations or social distance, activities such as going to hang out, wait for someone or walk-through shopping centers have become vestiges of the past. Not surprisingly, the influx of people in shopping centers has fallen by 22 and 42% in 2019 and 2020 due to Covid-19. A shocking fact explains it: physical visits to stores on Black Friday fell more than 50% last 2020.

All this, as we say, leads and will lead the retail trade to adapt to a new situation, modifying its relationship with the customer, rethinking what will happen to physical spaces or how to take advantage of the management of consumer / user data.

Customers are much more connected and demanding than ever. To face this situation, it is imperative to merge online and offline, improve the customer experience or rekindle the flame of the shopping centers. For example, in the case of street-level establishments, especially in the nerve centers of cities, brands have been betting heavily on flagship stores, stores that display products to be able to see and test them before purchasing online.

It is one more of the measures that are already seen in thousands and thousands of businesses: the adaptation of spaces to the current needs as a result of the pandemic, changes in the design of interior and visual spaces … and the predisposition to multifunctional spaces.


© Copyright. Betwin Space Design



What are multifunctional spaces?

Experience, disruption, omnichannel. These are just three attributes, but three of the important ones, of multi-functionality.

In this sense, multifunctional spaces are those shops that merge concepts and functions, retail and services. An example is found in bank offices that incorporate coffee shops in their spaces, or fashion stores that temporarily become fast food restaurants, such as Urban Outfitters.

Multifunction is therefore one of the great trends in shopping centers, a cornerstone of its structural transformation to adapt to new times. The interaction with the consumer and the integration of e-commerce and physical purchases will reach a new level.

Translated to the retail sector, and especially taking into account the changes that emerged after the pandemic, we are talking about a boom in contactless payment, on-site deliveries, personalized shopping experiences – for example, from obtaining visitor data through the free wifi-, virtual and augmented reality, etc.

Following this trend of multifunctional commerce, spaces have to be thought of as photogenic places, somehow ‘Instagrammable’, betting on colorful places, even with photocall walls.


Multifunctional spaces are those shops that merge concepts and functions, retail and services.



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Advantages of multifunctional commerce

The retail sector, we said, is in full reflection on the present and future hybrid between online and face-to-face sales. And the reconversion of the sector towards multifunctional spaces, whatever the scope they are, is to bet on a winning horse. There are many advantages that derive from this “omnichannel approach”.

Starting with having the logistical and strategic ease of giving the consumer what they ask for: personalized experience, innovation, showrooms and pop-up stores, guaranteeing safety and comfort. Adopting new technologies in stores will lead to greater productivity and efficiency of services. This new retail will imply, without going any further, that there are specific spaces for the delivery of orders. A concept whose success guarantees optimal click & collect and efficiency in the last mile.

In this regard, the dynamism generated by a store in constant change and movement is a source of wealth and innovation, which will be more attractive to customers.


Thus, it is necessary to understand that if the customer does not buy based on his needs but on his wishes, he can be attracted to the physical store.


Another of the most notable advantages that multifunctional spaces have and will have is their ability to adapt to the circular economy, so that the whole process is as sustainable as possible, saving on expenses, etc.



Successful examples of multifunctional spaces

The possibilities of multifunctional store retail are many, and each one more striking.


Slowear (Milano)

In addition to being a concept store dedicated to men’s and women’s fashion, the site is also a cafeteria and, at nightfall, it becomes a unique cocktail bar inspired by the aperitif. Product displays transform into display cabinets and beverage counters.


© Copyright. Alessandro Saletta for DSL studio



Rapha (London)

After breaking the mold by opening a clubhouse in Soho, this bicycle shop-cafeteria has gone one step further by expanding and improving a space that offers personalized shopping, guaranteeing a full-fledged “experience” for anyone who comes by. They also hold events on a daily basis.


© Copyright. Rapha Racing Limited 2021.




The future of retail

The million-dollar question: Does retail have a future? The answer is simple: yes. For many changes that occur in the consumer ecosystem, the existence of the physical store is non-negotiable, as well as essential in any modern society. 

The consumer, more than ever, is the engine of all trends and the nerve centre of shopping. Some purchases that grow irremediably in the online channel, forcing to readapt physical commercial spaces, but never to disappear. The future of retail, therefore, involves personalizing the physical shopping experience and improving the service, adapting to the changes that every time demands or facilitating the participation of consumers to satisfy their renewed needs. 

In summary, if the retail function has always been focused on consumption, it is time to understand the paradigm shift we are experiencing today: consumers demand services from the sector. And in that sense, functional spaces play a key role, since they allow us to face all these changes at the logistical and resource level.



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