The Green Session: the department store of the future


Technological innovations, digital revolutions and sustainability developments are not only changing the way we shop, but also where we shop. What will department stores look like in the future? Will they still be stores, in what ways will products be sold and what role will sustainability play in this? In this session Willa Stoutenbeek sits down with Samuel de Goede of textile innovation studio BYBORRE, Rosanne van Miltenburg of the sustainable innovation platform Fashion for Good, creative consultant Janneke van Rooijen and buyer Irene van Lieshout of de Bijenkorf. How do they envision the department store of the future?

The department store as an inspiring place
Janneke van Rooijen is senior creative consultant at de Bijenkorf. With her work she anticipates the future zeitgeist and what needs consumers expect from a department store. Janneke: “Research shows that the physical element of a department store remains important, but not necessarily in its current form. Consumers indicate that they see the added value of a physical place, because their senses are stimulated and because of the inspirational element.”

Yet there are some crucial elements that will change, Janneke says: “There is a great need for more intimacy and personality in the shopping experience. Sustainability will become the new norm, as will transparency. The department store of the future will have a greater function, it will be a place of connection and inspiration where people come together.” Samuel from BYBORRE agrees: “I think that a department store like de Bijenkorf can become a meeting place where you can find inspiration without necessarily having to buy something.”

Digital innovation
Although it is often argued that digital and physical work against each other, Janneke and Samuel argue that the two aspects actually go hand in hand in an innovative future of the fashion world. Samuel: “The online world has a strong link with the concept of connection and creating a community. This connection can also be made between the on- and offline worlds; people see and try on things in the store but order them online. But for example, also the innovative online gaming industry is something that many fashion houses incorporate in their strategy.” Janneke adds, “For example, Balenciaga showed a collection in an online game and also Gucci launched their collaboration with label The North Face through the game Pokémon GO.”

Although there are numerous developments in the field of sustainability and innovative store concepts, sharing knowledge between different parties remains an important factor. This is also one of the most important parts of Rosanne van Miltenburg’s work at Fashion for Good. “We target different groups through our two pillars of the museum on the one hand and the innovative platform on the other, but the goal of both is to share knowledge and connect people. You often hear about what goes wrong and how bad the industry can be, but we want to show what is possible.” One of the biggest challenges? “Transparency – a key element in properly assessing which products and practices are truly sustainable.” 

Irene van Lieshout, head of bying of accessories, women’s shoes, watches and jewelry at de Bijenkorf, underlines that challenge. “Transparency is important in developing new and sustainable practices. Sometimes you run into certain things, or things have to be adjusted because more information is needed. For example, with watches it is even more complicated to properly determine when a brand is more sustainable than another, and leather is not sustainable because of the animal material, but at the same time it is sustainable in the literal sense of the word. Transparency is essential to make these choices clear and to be able to work together for a sustainable and innovative future of the department store.”

Watch this Green Session on YouTube.



Lara Oliveri



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