Fusion as a concept is kind of trying to quite consciously fuse things that are sometimes quite contradictory, sometimes quite far apart, to see if they’d work. – Yotam Ottolenghi

Yesterday’s lines of demarcation in retailer usage and offering are quickly becoming fuzzy.

This weekend I went to my local supermarket, ate some freshly made sushi, drank some coffee, arranged some credit, organised my insurance, had my blood pressure checked, confirmed that I don’t currently have diabetes, and even managed to buy some groceries.

Yesterday I visited a local high street fashion shop that sold everything from art, hair, shampoos, razor blades, pot plants, ceramics, and even some fashion. Then I thought it time to get my hair cut, and even my local barber is into blurring the lines, with racks of fashion, healthy food, juices and street art adorning the offer.

And there are many other examples to highlight the blurring of the lines. Although this trend is not just restricted to the high street retailer or to larger vertically integrated conglomerates, it is a growing way of life for both consumers and retailers alike.

By way of example, I recently visited the impressive Japanese retailer, Muji in Melbourne’s Emporium shopping centre. This is fascinating example of fusion retailing – moving from giftwares and homewares, from lifestyle to lifeware.

The store smoothly and seamlessly fuses a range of categories from men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel and accessories; furniture; home wares, skincare products; stationery; bedding; and travel goods.

While fashion, beauty, and lifestyle might be the classic categories, this fusion of items assorted into user zones, assortments of broadly related SKUs, navigated skilfully through the shop adds to the “lifeware” experience.

The glue that holds this assortment together is the simplicity and consistency of the brand. Muji does away with superfluous design features, to deliver simple, pure designs which are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

“The nature of the Muji concept is its simplicity, an unadorned integrity, and the way a Muji product blends into a living space without asserting itself,” said former Muji creative director, Kazuko Koike.

To understand the Muji offer is to understand fused ranges, or more precisely, to consider how the customer’s home might actually be and look, how the perception of needs cuts across usage to meet the emotional triggers of desire.

Creating a fusion of experiences, both the tangible and mystical, the simplicity of this retail offer brings a zen-like calm to an often complicated modern life and a quiet haven in Melbourne CBD. This blending into a living space without asserting itself may well be the secret to creating retail fusion experiences

There are increasingly more examples of retailers discarding traditional constrained boundaries of presentation to potential and current customers. Customers are seeking new experiential environments in which to shop where the rules that once were, no longer apply.

Happy Fit Retailing

Brian Walker

Founder & CEO

Retail Doctor Group

(Images: Archilux lighting)

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First published by Inside Retail, July 2014