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Studs Lip Lab Beyond Yoga
From left to right: Studs, Lip Lab, Beyond Yoga. Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

Beyond Yoga, Studs, and Lip Lab Woo the Next Gen with Newly Opened Chicago Stores

We break down the latest in Gen Z and Millennial retail trends observed across recently opened Chicago locations from up-and-coming brands.

At McMillanDoolittle, we always have our eye on the latest store openings and concepts as brands continue to strategically position themselves to deepen their connections with existing customers and attract new customers. Chicago remains a magnet for emerging retailers, particularly in neighborhoods like Gold Coast and Fulton Market, where the concentration of Gen Z and Millennial shoppers and foot traffic is significant, and the retail corridors afford plentiful options for smaller retail footprints ideal for DTC brands to connect with consumers in intimate physical spaces. If you’re a brand or retailer looking to expand into a new market, contact us 

Beyond Yoga, Studs, and Lip Lab all recently opened their first retail outposts in Chicago.  These brands win with Gen Z and Millennial shoppers by offering memorable, customer-centric experiences and products within trendy, interactive, and welcoming store environments.   

  • Our first stop was Beyond Yoga, a comfortable and versatile athleisure brand known for size inclusivity, with an offering ranging from XXS to 4XL. The female-founded brand started in 2005 and was acquired by Levi Strauss in 2021, kicking off an expansion into the owned brick-and-mortar channel. This is Beyond Yoga’s 6th store and the first outside of California.  
  • Next, we visited Lip Lab, which launched in 2019 as part of a major rebranding effort of the beauty company Bite Beauty. Lip Lab specializes in creating personalized lipstick shades through color theory done by color experts and currently operates 12 locations. The brand offers food-grade makeup quality in custom colors with a range of flavor options. 
  • Lastly, we headed to the Gold Coast to see Studs. Studs was founded in 2019 to provide a modern ear-piercing experience through safe and sanitary needle piercing with on-trend products and services. The brand is expanding rapidly, with the new Chicago outpost being their 20th location.

There are 4 key trends shaping the latest branded retail stores in Chicago: 

  1. Modern Design Cues An Organic and Minimalist Aesthetic with Pops of Bold Color. These cool and inviting stores captured the elevated design aesthetic and shopping experience that next gen consumers desire. In all three stores, sharp edges are rare to find; curved couches, displays, doorways, and mirrors fill each of the spaces. Bursts of color, such as neon yellow and bright pink, add intrigue to the more muted white walls. Floor to ceiling windows allow for natural light to flood in and provide an opportunity for the product to catch the attention of passersby. Stock images of models are scarce; instead, relatable and inclusive photos, along with mannequins, are prevalent. Elements are designed to be social-friendly, from the pink Lip Lab mirror perfect for shareable selfies to the metallic walls of Studs in the piercing area.  
    Lip Lab, Studys, Beyond Yoga

    Clockwise from left to right: Lip Lab, Studs, Studs, Beyond Yoga. Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

  2. Made-for-you – Customer-Centric Products and Highly Personalized Experiences. These brands prioritize individualized customer interactions through consultations with their friendly, knowledgeable associates, ensuring that every customer receives tailored advice and products. At Studs, the concept of “earscaping” influences how associates provide personalized recommendations of where and which piercing matches the consumer’s individual needs. Beyond Yoga takes a similar approach by allowing shoppers to schedule one-on-one styling sessions with associates, facilitating a personalized shopping experience aimed at finding the best-fitting products based on each shopper’s body type. In the case of Lip Lab, the brand is founded on the principle of personalization. Customers work directly with Color Experts to create a shade of lipstick and flavor. Shoppers have the option to engrave the lipstick case as well.  
    Lip Lab, Studs

    From left to right: Lip Lab and Studs. Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

  3. Community-focus – Social Spaces that Facilitate Connection. These three locations offer more than just shopping—they provide opportunities for social gatherings. Lip Lab boasts a dedicated party room available for private events, Studs welcomes large groups for occasions such as birthdays and bachelorette parties, and Beyond Yoga hosts community events by partnering with social groups like Chicago Girls Who Walk and nearby fitness and wellness studios. Emerging retail spaces are designed to provide an engaging social experience that can foster connections between customers and the brand’s community.
    Lip Lab

    Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

  4. Localization – Chicago-Specific Offerings. While the design elements of the Chicago stores align with the layout and experience of existing locations across the USA, these establishments also incorporate unique Chicago-related offerings to reflect the local community. Beyond Yoga featured a grab and go guide “Chi Guide” with neighborhood favorites, including nearby coffee shops and fitness studios, and provided Chicago postcards at checkout. Additionally, Studs is set to release a Chicago and Windy City collection, with items like a Cloud Gate (known by locals as “The Bean”) earring and Deep Dish huggie, to commemorate their entrance into Chicago and connect with new Chicago customers and tourists alike. 
    Chi Guide

    Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

Beyond Yoga, Studs, and Lip Lab connect with their retail customers through memorable, modern, and personalized customer experiences that position these brands to win with the Gen Z and Millennial Chicago customer with a giftable offering just in time for the holidays 

Maddie McBride

Maddie is an analyst on the consumer insights and innovation team at McMillanDoolittle, supporting quantitative and qualitative primary research methodologies, business analysis, strategic planning, and new concept, format and product development. She brings recent expertise in human-centered design, creative workshop facilitation, and statistical analysis to her project work. Maddie received her BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame.

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