With technology changing retailing at lightning speed and brick-and-mortar stores closing by the thousands, the global-management firm McKinsey & Co. is opening a store of its own.
Modern Retail Collective, which opens Friday at the Mall of America in Bloomington, will be as much of a living laboratory as a high-tech shopping experience.
Designed to allow people to shop among several fashion and beauty brands, consumers will test drive new technology, such as smart mirrors, fit-predictor software and cryptocurrency payments.
Meanwhile, McKinsey & Co. — which works with 17 of the world’s largest retailers, along with the individual retailers and officials at the Mall of America — will gather real-time data on how consumers relate to new technology, how they prefer to shop and buy, and what the store of the future might look like.
“This is a concept to learn, test and try,” said Jennifer Spaulding Schmidt, a senior partner at McKinsey’s office in Minneapolis.
Retail labs are a growing trend, allowing retailers to work out kinks in technology and send up trial balloons for an increasingly fickle, tech-savvy and demanding consumer. Shoppers seek out experiences as well as instant gratification whether they are shopping online or in stores.
Walmart opened an Intelligent Retail Lab in one of its Neighborhood Market grocery stores in New York this spring to test out artificial intelligence to signal when merchandise is out of stock.
Bed Bath & Beyond is closing dozens of traditional stores and opening Next Generation Lab stores, where it is testing new products and store layouts.
And while shopping malls remain a bastion of brick-and-mortar enterprises, a recent report from the International Council of Shopping Centers said that many are becoming “true e-commerce participants” through their websites, digital interfaces and mobile communications with shoppers.
The report said that a “hybrid form of commerce” is emerging where “shoppers move seamlessly between the physical and digital worlds of retailing as they research products and make purchases.”
McKinsey and the Mall of America spent a year on the concept, Schmidt said, and brought in popular and emerging retail brands to launch it.
ThirdLove lingerie, which has just one store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, will use technology to help consumers find the best bra size and fit. A Kendra Scott boutique will feature a “magic mirror” to allow shoppers to click on jewelry and see how it looks on them. Elevé Cosmetics and the aluminum-free deodorant brand Type:A are also among the first brands at the store.
While the Modern Retail Collective is designed to look and feel like any other store, shoppers will hear from salespeople and see signs letting them know they’re part of a test, McKinsey’s Schmidt said.
“We want it to be fun, we want them to enjoy it,” Schmidt said, “But privacy is important to us.”
About a dozen other companies are involved in the project, related to marketing, research, software and digital payment options.
The store is located near Nordstrom on the second level. McKinsey plans to rotate retailers every three to four months during the next year and to provide research reports in time for the holiday shopping season.