Concept Stores in Russia

Ekaterina Petukhova's picture
Concept Stores in Russia

Shopping in Russia has always meant something more than merely looking for clothes. Nice hairstyle, trendy outfit and of course the make-up are the fashion statement when going shopping. Perhaps this is the reason why Russia is currently swamped by a wave of concept stores?

Definitely we are not talking about this trend in terms on a large scale as more than half of Russians still buy their clothes from open-air markets, although this is absurd as most stores stock cheaper merchandise of better quality. Maybe markets are examples of lifestyle consumption, albeit nostalgic ones. Anyway we are covering the stores which do not have a prominent market share but lead the market when it comes to its mood and the level of fashion industry development.

It’s worth mentioning that department stores were quite a tradition in pre-Soviet Russia and in the USSR when working in a department store was something akin to finding yourself among powerful pagan gods. Pagan, as they were connected and associated with the valuable tangible assets of all the different kinds of goods available in these department stores. In the new turbulent Post-Soviet era carrying and managing so much merchandise at the same time seemed crazy.

Till now the department stores in Russia were mainly luxury destinations with high mark-ups covering all the headaches for management. Initially there were only a few but now a whole bunch of stores offer new cute and hyper brands in their well-designed interiors to compete with the leading players. However, some of them are leaving for more profitable businesses, as Crocus did to develop real estate. Those left behind find themselves in a tougher situation as they have to fight for brands and customers with each other and also struggle with those young but smart concept spaces.

“Smart” because they sell pretty much the same merchandise as the department stores. They are not trying to surprise or shock you. In a modern and pretentiously designed space you see the same contemporary brands you have in real concept stores – Colette, DSM, Corso Como or in well-known department stores abroad. Sarah from Colette said something that absolutely reflects the concept store’s attitude “we do not do any budgets; we just cross our fingers and order!”

In fact managing a concept store is knowing when and for whom to have your fingers crossed as you must teach, act and show new fashion lines in a specific environment. Globally, concept means devotion and exploration. In Russia it means being the first to know what’s hot in other concept stores abroad – shabby Japanese items or rectangular sequins matter. Following your concept peers it's easy to forget that it's not just heavy designer nor the most trendy brand-mix that makes your store prominent, more importantly is still the idea behind the store itself.