Reshaping retail

What does the future look like for brick-and-mortar shops? Ask three ambitious entrepreneurs from Amsterdam and they will tell you that it probably looks a lot like Productpine, a new retail concept that capitalises on the way we shop, 21st century style. Bringing in a new kind of shopping experience in the age of e-commerce means turning everything on its head and offering an immersive shopping experience that online-only can't match. Retail expert Tchai was involved in translating Productpine’s first Flagship Store into a playground of innovation.
31 december 2021

To many people, a start-up aiming to sell products to the public through physical retail locations could sound like a foolishly outdated idea at a time when e-commerce is booming. But for Camiel van Dooren, Dimitar Maslarov and Vincent Hulshoff, the three young founders behind Productpine, it is today’s consumer who is shaping their vision for a new kind of shopping experience.

A shift in perspective often breathes new life into traditional concepts. At Productpine it is the shift from viewing the retail store as a distribution channel to re-imagining it as an experience platform. Instead of competing with online retailers by asking shoppers to simply come in and buy products from their store, the starting-point is an invitation to get hands-on with some of the most innovative consumer goods around. Most of which you probably didn’t even know existed. That is, until you discover them in a Productpine store near you.

At its core, Productpine is about connecting the right audience – let’s call them the early adopters – with new tech-enhanced products from around the world. If you’re the type of person who can easily spend hours browsing Kickstarter or perhaps you’re just intrigued by gadgetry in general, then Productpine feels like the place where it all comes together. Because, let’s face it, no matter how many product descriptions we read or the number of slickly edited promo videos we watch, such product interactions remain distant and impersonal. Above all – and this is especially the case for innovative products – nothing beats getting to touch and try before deciding to buy. And here is where Productpine really comes into its own, by offering an immersive shopping experience online-only platforms cannot match. Turning everything on its head in this way means that the idea for a retail store translates into what you could call a 21st century playground of innovation. With the added bonus of being able to take home whatever takes your fancy at the end of your visit.

How does this approach play out on a shopping trip? Well, perhaps a friend told you they sell fitness trackers here. But most likely you’re strolling through your city’s shopping district and it’s curiosity that gets you through the door. After all, it does say: discover your next favourite thing on the storefront. Inside, there’s a laidback vibe; it doesn’t really feel like a shop at all. Each innovation is presented out of its box and ready to use, without any additional brand promotion or distractions. Pick up and play is what it’s all about with friendly ‘experience specialists’ on hand to encourage interaction and help you engage with the story behind the products. Hey, is that a selfie drone? Time to take a closer look. Or how about putting that fitness tracker through its paces? There’s a space for that too, just jog on through to the try-out area.

“Nothing beats getting to touch and try before deciding to buy.”

Stepping away from the products for a minute to regard the store’s overall design, shoppers will notice that the interior space is refreshingly lowtech. Where you may expect to find an abundance of futuristic high-gloss fixtures and fittings, the Productpine store very much embraces the use of traditional materials, such as wood, stone, tile and glass. Such familiar material choices – reminiscent of our own homes – are by no means coincidental; they help us to imagine how the innovations on off er might become part of our daily lives. Creating this link to lifestyle is also the idea behind the store’s meeting space, an area dedicated to community building by bringing tech enthusiasts together in a living-room like setting. Furthermore, Productpine’s ambition to open stores in more major European hubs presents another design opportunity: the chance to connect with the city and its story. For the flagship store in Amsterdam that design story touches on the seventeenth-century Golden Age, a period when the city flourished through trade, art and science.

“While shoppers go about testing goods on the shop floor, there's more going on than meets the eye."

So will this kind of experience-driven shopping bring new purpose to the high street? Only time will tell. But for now, we do know one thing for sure: Productpine is right up there at the forefront, challenging established ideas on what a brick-andmortar retail space can be.

The Productpine flagship store is located at Rokin 58 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands