Be “Well-thy”

A consumer movement beyond just health and wellness—but of being of sound body and mind—is creating new opportunities in retail, fitness and other mindful spaces in between


2018 will be the year of mindfulness. In today’s fast-paced, always-connected society, it has become increasingly difficult to drown out the “noise.” Our brains are operating a thousand miles a minute, and screentime often overrides downtime. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten how to relax.

But that is changing. A mindfulness movement of holistic health and wellbeing quickly is emerging on the consumer landscape, and retailers are jumping on board. An increasing fusion of wellness with retail abounds, from stores offering in-house yoga classes, running clubs, weight-loss groups and even tea samplings among an ever-expanding array of services. Even larger retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue are getting into the action with its recent Wellery pop-up in New York, which featured an ad hoc assortment of upscale fitness products, group fitness classes and new age remedies. This two-way street shows no sign of abating as consumers continue to prioritize healthful offerings in every area of their lives.

WD Partners sees wellness as such a pivotal movement that the Dublin, Ohio-based retail design firm recently named Dan Stanek as an executive vice president to lead its health and wellness vertical. “It allows us to activate the wellness phenomenon and influence how it’s affecting retail, food service—all these places we touch,” Stanek says.

Here, we examine some of the companies who are charging ahead in the wellness arena, giving consumers what they want and need—and even a few things they may not know they need yet. What was once called “new age” has quickly become the “now age.”

A Meditative State
While it has been in practice for thousands of years, meditation is having a major moment. From quiet rooms in workplaces and hospitals to silent retreat offerings at many resorts and even dedicated spaces in residential homes, there has been a rise in meditation rooms. They are often called “transformative,” “positive” or even “self-care” spaces—where people can meditate, pray, breathe or just relax. Meditation is part of a seismic shift from viewing health as just a product of diet and exercise to a more holistic perspective.

And while it’s hard to go a few blocks without stumbling across a yoga, spin or barre studio in most big cities, a new addition might soon be the corner meditation center. Inscape in New York and Current Meditation in Phoenix are betting that even people who have a hard time committing to a practice on their own will benefit from a serene group experience led by an experienced guide.

Jay Adams, design director at FITCH’s Phoenix office, was the creative lead for Current Meditation. As fitness and other aspects of wellness have become a “given” for so many people already, he says that certain considerations had to be made to fit in a dedicated meditation space into the overall picture. “Meditation requires things that are unique (acoustic control, simple spaces, specific lighting, etc.),” Adams says. “Bringing in other activities would convolute the experience and thus our understanding of its successes. As we understand more and how much each of these variables contribute to the results, we’ll be able to surgically pull back and include more activities that make sense.”

The first “Mindfulosophy” space opened in Lululemon Athletica’s Rockefeller Center store in New York last summer, where frazzled shoppers can park it at a pod—a cushion with a headphone set—and listen to their choice of guided meditations.

Last January, Lululemon also converted a double-decker bus in London into a mobile meditation space to promote its new Regent Street store. For about a week, “Meditation OM the Move” offered complimentary meditation sessions complete with noise-cancelling headphones, calming aromatherapy oils, steamed face towels and healthy snacks.

Sweat Therapy
When people think of “wellness,” their minds often go directly to exercise. But while boutique studios and box gyms have been all the rage for years, they are starting to offer more holistic services to their members.

Barry’s Boot Camp recently embarked on a global expansion and opened a large Toronto location. In addition to its classic HIIT (high-intensity interval training) offerings, the 8,000-sq.-ft. studio features a retail boutique, selfie wall and Fuel Bar offering fresh smoothies.

Joey Gonzalez, Barry’s CEO, says the company also is launching its own premium workout line, Barry’s FIT. “It’s designed to be the ultimate athletic wear for HIIT training and was developed by our expert athletes,” he says. “We also have the gold standard in locker room amenities: plush towels, Oribe beauty products, and gorgeously designed, well-lit shower facilities. We’ve designed Barry’s locations so that people actually want to spend time there.”

Not to be outdone, indoor cycling studios are also offering extras to keep their riders coming back for more. Alan Cooke, vice president of design for SoulCycle, says the group fitness atmosphere is tribal and something that people crave. “Forty-five minutes of high-impact cardio with an inspirational instructor coaching you through a physical, mental and spiritual workout in a dark candlelit room is transformative,” he explains. “When you combine that with a beautiful space and great amenities, it’s hard to not find time in your day for exercise.”

Holistic Retail
Athleisure brands have been enticing customers into their stores by offering free, drop-in yoga classes for a while now, maximizing flexible retail spaces to accommodate occasional classes. However, with the proliferation of competitors, the offerings are getting more expansive (and expensive) to exceed customer expectations.

At Alo Yoga’s Beverly Hills, Calif., store, there is a dedicated yoga studio and rooftop deck, where customers can attend daily classes. Mats and clothes can be purchased on-site, and fresh juices and snacks are provided.

London-based Sweaty Betty was founded in 1998 and is known for its bottom-sculpting, reversible pants and other statement athletic wear. One of its new flagships is a 2,200-sq.-ft. space in London’s Soho neighborhood, where patrons also can grab healthy bites at Farm Girl café, work out at its dedicated studio and leave looking amazing after hitting the Duck & Dry blow dry bar.

While not a retailer per se, community work company WeWork launched Rise by We in October below the ground floor at its location at 85 Broad St. in New York. It has everything a fitness buff could want in a gym and then some, with yoga and meditation classes, functional training, kickboxing and mixed martial arts, a spa and more. “Wellness has long been a part of our holistic experience for our employees and members,” says a spokesperson for WeWork. “From WeWork to WeLive, our aim is to provide the space, community and services to help you do what you love in every aspect of your life.”

Medicinal Wellness
The tsunami of cannabis retail shows no signs of slowing down as more states clear the way for its medical and even recreational use. The total “cannabusiness” market topped $4 billion in 2016, and is expected to reach $11.9-$17.1 billion by 2021, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

Greg James, publisher of one of the biggest B2Bs in the marijuana industry, Marijuana Venture, says that store aesthetics have gotten more attention recently, resulting in some high-end experiences that rival jewelry stores in their visual appeal.

“One of the trends that seems to be driving this is that retailers are quickly realizing that while the core user might not care much about store layout, the ‘soccer mom’ types who are going to be where all the growth comes from do,” James explains. “They like a sophisticated, ‘non-stoner’ approach and will pay for better products and a more comfortable environment.”

Oregon-based Serra is an experiential cannabis lifestyle brand and curated retail space that “rethinks, redefines and sets the bar for progressive pot culture,” according to the brand’s website. In each of its three Portland-area dispensaries, the signature “Quality Drugs” mantra appears in bright neon on the wall, surrounded by a curated selection of flowers, edibles, topicals, concentrates and lifestyle accessories. Perhaps most interestingly, strains of cannabis in the shop are organized by how they make the user feel—i.e. energy, focus, happiness, creativity, relaxation and relief—providing a far more intuitive (and less intimidating) shopping framework for the less-experienced buyer.

On the design front, a glimpse of what’s to come may be from The McBride Company, based in Manchester Center, Vt., which recently hired Johnnie Rush to be its chief innovation officer. Through the firm’s Alpha Think creative lab, Rush and his team devised three marijuana dispensary concept designs that haven’t yet come to fruition. Rush says it was important to get some of the design ideas out there and start educating people. “Once people start to understand what the different products are and why they exist…I think many people will see that it’s nothing to be scared of.”

Also proving that dispensaries can offer elevated experiences: Diego Pellicer-Colorado, an upscale dispensary and independent brand licensee based out of Denver. Warm wood tones, sleek fixtures and greenery create a welcoming ambience for those who appreciate or are eager to learn the subtle nuances of premium cannibis products.

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