Credit by David J. Katz

"Retail as theater" has been redefined. The new shopping, entertainment, immersive experience ecosystem will completely transform the roles of retailers, retail workers, brands, products, services and especially "customers."

In the 1960s, before the term “retail experience” existed, CEO and industry icon, Marvin Traub, created “retail as theater” at Bloomingdale’s on 59th Street.

Traub explained, “We developed the idea that a store should be entertainment, not just a place to buy a suit and a shirt or a tie.”

Under Traub, Bloomingdale’s staged stunning and immersive product presentations, curated from around the globe, as must-see events, attracting media and celebrity visitors, including Queen Elizabeth.

In his 2008 biography, “Marvin Traub: Like No Other Career,” Mr. Traub predicted that retailing would increasingly be dominated by digital technology and that shopping malls would evolve into "centers of entertainment" where department stores and small shops will share space with luxury hotels and restaurants, grocery stores, performance halls and gymnasiums. 

Traub’s premonition is a remarkably accurate depiction of Hudson Yards, the new 28-acre mixed-use Manhattan real estate development that opened in March with one million square-feet of retail space adjoining 18 million square-feet of residential and commercial development, five office towers, 4,000 condominiums, the Equinox luxury hotel and gym, a dozen restaurants and an art and music complex. 

The fusion of brands, products and customers sharing a theatrical setting is one thing, playing a role in the theatrics is the next wave of retail engagement.

Today, at several Canada Goose retail shops you can try-on a parka and wear it into a dressing room that is wind-chilled to zero degrees, take a selfie or two with the polar bear and icicles, and buy the coat.

The next act of "retail as theater"

Scheduled to open during November 2019 is "ModelLand," a 21,000-square-foot theme park in Santa Monica, California envisioned by Tyra Banks.

ModelLand will offer model role-play, interactive fashion features, and, of course, retail shops, all designed to encourage visitors to engage in their catwalk fantasies, and take home the outfit to prove it.

It will be “a new world of storytelling and adventure in a grand, fantastical, physical place where all expressions of beauty are celebrated,” according to a press release.
“The multilevel ticketed experience invites all visitors to redefine what a model really is and for people to be the dream versions of themselves.”

The future of retail is physical, augmented, virtual and fully immersive

The journey that began a long time ago at Bloomingdale’s now brings us far, far away to Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars Theme Park that opened last month at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The Disney World version will open in Orlando, Florida in August. Each 14-acre park cost $2 Billion to create and pushes the boundaries of an immersive retail experience to new levels.

Galaxy’s Edge is designed as a settlement located in a remote corner of the galaxy named “Black Spire Outpost” on the planet Batuu, a hideaway for smugglers and rebels fighting the evil Empire and First Order.