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Taking Cues from WorkShop the retail agency

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In retail’s ever-changing landscape, one must find ways to stand out. It means evolving through innovation and smart working and WorkShop certainly follows the same path.

Established in 1979 in Jönköping, a town in the middle of Sweden, WorkShop is a leading retail agency with a big reach in Northern Europe. Their vision to create & innovate is the reason it holds a vast portfolio of collaborations with  Nike, Twilfit, Intel, Swedish Match and more. Their notable work is the White Box Snus Store – an engaging pop up store introduced in the Norwegian market where the tobacco industry exists under the shadows.

NationalMuseum Project. Photo by Mattias Hamren

MiND had the opportunity to visit Stockholm during the Design Week and speak with Kristofer Wanselius, the founding partner of WorkShop as he shares insights into what drives them to continue to innovate.

Kristofer Wanselius

What led you to creating WorkShop the Retail Agency?

I moved out of Stockholm in 1997 with my father who worked in advertising. Soon, I moved back to Stockholm and started working on my own. Interestingly, one of the first clients I worked for was Nike. And that made me realize that if I could work with such a big brand, I can only imagine the opportunities in the future! By the way, it’s been 20 years and we are still working with Nike. We have set up another office in Amsterdam in order to be close to Nike’s European Headquarters.

Nike_Rezet in Denmark. Photo by Matthew James Harrison

How would you describe your design philosophy?

We believe that it is more important than ever to have an ‘experience’. Today when online platforms are selling better, physical retail has to make a statement for the brand. Brand and consumer is our philosophy. Subsequently, we have set up departments for insight & data analysis to understand local consumers, and to analyze the trends within retail. We combine relevant data with our client relationships to create best extension of the brand.

“How to make experience better for the brands and consumers is our philosophy.”

Twilfit, Gallerian. Photo by Mattias Hamren

Which brands’ in-store experience do you appreciate? And one thing you’ve learned from them?

I like Nespresso as they really work on the concept, the store front etc. The other one I’d definitely say Nike town in London. Both of them are examples of strong brands that are high on experience. Over the years, I’ve learned to look into the finer details and subtle nuances. When I used to play football as a teenager, I visited the Nike town in London with my team. I remember how fascinated I was with the small Nike logo at the bottom of the automatic escalator. I thought, ”Oh they’re so good at details!”. In fact, currently we are working on a pop up store where I’m focusing on details such as the color of socks for the store staff to make sure that the concept is mirrored in the tiniest of details.

G-Sport Storgata. Photo by Daniel Tengs

“In retail, detail makes a difference.”

Nespresso Kungsgatan. Photo by Mattias Hamren

The crisis of bricks-and-mortar stores is a subject of debate. How does this affect WorkShop’s approach to store design?

Boring retail is dead. So one thing we constantly do is experiment. We feel the need to develop new pop up and concept stores. We often use pop ups to test a new technology, create buzz, drive online traffic and as a way to increase sales in new locations. Although we don’t know if it’s going to be a success, what we can notice is a need and a behavior, which enables us to track the impact of it. We’ve also adapted our approach to the non-seasonal retail behavior; which means that nobody has to wait for a design week or a fashion week anymore, and have the liberty to launch products whenever!

White Box Snus Store Oslo. Photo by Mattias Hamren

Your White Box Pop-up concept for the Norwegian Snus Market is exceptional. How do you want visitors to feel when they visit the stores?

Our first concept store for Snus was in Stockholm. After seeing the response we wanted to reach to the Norwegian market. But since there are some legal constraints on selling tobacco products, it was a challenge to communicate this snus pop up store. We had to go with an understated and simple approach. Hence, we thought the material could be an important detail, so we chose to use mirrors for the exteriors. That evoked a lot of curiosity among people- they were walking back and forth to see what this pop up was about. I’m really thankful for the positive reaction towards this pop up store.

White Box Snus Store Oslo. Photo by Mattias Hamren

Is there a specific project that you are most proud of?

Last year, 2018, we were involved in relaunching the Swedish National Museum, which had been closed for renovations and reconstruction during a 5 year period. The overall transformation resulted in a up-to-date dynamic museum experience attracting a wider audience with a capacity to double the number of visitors. With our retail perspective we focused on visitor experience and of course a stunning museum shop experience. We created a wayfinding strategy and navigation aesthetics inspired by original interior of the building, as well as the visual identity, shop concept and packaging design based on the Nationalmuseum brand. The reopening was the talk of the year, and we’re really proud to be associated with it.

NationalMuseum Project- Photo by Mattias Hamren

Future?

We are working with the Swedish food market which is often considered as geeky or nerdy, so we want to create something exciting to elevate the experience. My inspiration came from my trip to Fico Eataly when I was in Bologna last summer. Eataly had small shops dedicated to tomatoes, potatoes etc. So we are planning our first food pop up store in one of the best locations in the Nordics. We will be working for a Swedish brand that sells spices and seasonings. Our aim is to convey the history behind spices, where they come from and offer more knowledge about usage.

By Elena Parise & Akanksha Salunke
NationalMuseum Project- Photo by Mattias Hamren