Setting up Shop

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In this uncertain climate for print media, two magazines are hedging their bets beyond circulation numbers by expanding their brand offerings in the retail space. This November, both National Geographic and global culture magazine Monocle opened their first-ever retail stores in London.

National Geographic's 19,375 square-foot store on major shopping row Regent Street features a travel desk where visitors can book expeditions with the magazine's photographers and explorers, as well as interactive visual displays, a travel and cartographic library, a tapas café, gallery space and a marketplace that doubles as an events venue after store hours. Customers can also try on apparel in the store's "climate room," a product-testing chamber featuring wind gusts and extreme temperature changes.

The store, created in partnership with Worldwide Retail Store, brings together products and services that the brand has cultivated over the past 10 years. In that time, Nat Geo has expanded into licensed apparel, travel packages, film, television and more than 30 foreign language editions of the mag.

"We believe the merchandising business is a way to reach new audiences, both younger and all family audiences," says John Dumbacher, SVP/licensing for National Geographic. "The store really celebrates world cultures and is a way to experience National Geographic in 3D that's unlike what we're able to do on television, in documentary film or in the magazine." Dumbacher says a second store will open in Singapore and dozens more are planned across Europe.

The Italian architecture firm April, led by architect Francesco Tiribelli, designed the space. The exposed-structure space has polished concrete floors and is painted black like black-box theaters, so the design could allow for monthly changes like in the magazine, Dumbacher says. The store is largely furnished with antiquities, one-of-a-kind pieces and furniture made from reclaimed wood, all of which is for sale. Net profit from the store goes to education and conservation, like all Nat Geo endeavors.

Similarly, Monocle magazine set up a shop in London's Marylebone to showcase its existing retail partnerships with Comme des Garçons, Porter, Artek and Drakes London. Prior to the shop's opening, these products, including perfume, bags, a stool and scarves, were available via the Monocle website and through select retailers. The tiny shop—only 100 square feet—was designed by the Monocle team and will also feature curated products from around the world as well as back issues of the magazine since its launch in early 2007.
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