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a shopper walks by Zara
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Zara’s Tech-Forward Concept Store Arrives in Chicagoland

Zara recently opened a “white box” concept store in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. This new flagship is a two-story, 28,000-square-foot space that boasts a minimalist and modern design, equipped with the latest omnichannel integrations. This store represents Zara’s ongoing efforts to enhance its presence in major US markets and to provide innovative, tech-forward retail destinations for shoppers. Our team traveled to the Westfield Old Orchard shopping center to visit the flagship, which is a few stores down from and twice the size of its previous Skokie location—check out our Instagram reel for video coverage.

The United States is Zara’s second-largest market, with 99 locations. Zara, a subsidiary of multinational clothing company Inditex Group, recently announced ambitious plans for 30 US store projects, encompassing renovations, relocations, and new openings by 2025. Traditionally, US Zara stores have leaned towards darker, more compact, and analog designs. However, these new locations will embody Zara’s “white box” concept, characterized by an open and spacious layout, floor-to-ceiling windows, a minimalist aesthetic, the latest technology integrations, and sustainable systems.

While the “white box” concept has already become a standard fixture in Europe and Asia, its presence in the US remains relatively scarce. Markets such as Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami stand out as some of the few American cities where this modern design is present.

clothing racks and displays

Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

In the new store design, various in-store technology solutions streamline traditionally time-consuming and labor-intensive activities, such as try-on, pick-up, and check-out. These self-service solutions, powered by Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and robotics, significantly reduce friction for customers and allow Zara associates to dedicate more time to maintaining the elevated store experience by replenishing products, refolding items, and interacting with customers on the floor.

  • Try-on: Through the “store mode” feature within the app, shoppers can reserve one of the 38 fitting rooms and are notified when a spot becomes available. Access to fitting rooms is granted using a self-service screen enabled by RFID. Customers simply hold items in front of the screen, and within seconds, the technology identifies the items and directs customers to an available room. The rooms are clean, spacious, and feature sustainable lighting that dims when not in use. When finished, shoppers tap their clothes on another screen to close out their room and then hand the clothes to the associate overseeing the fitting rooms.
    fitting room signage

    Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

  • Pick-up: Through the Zara app, shoppers can browse available in-store products and place an order for pickup in 2 hours or less. Upon arrival at the store, shoppers can swiftly retrieve their orders using the robotic-powered pickup system. Individuals scan the QR code found in the app, and the machine instantly identifies the order. A glass door lifts, and the Zara parcel is ready for pickup. The entire process took about 15 seconds for our McMillanDoolittle team.
    a shopper picking up an order

    Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

  • Check-out: Customers check out at one of the 15 self-service kiosks. Like the Uniqlo system, Zara’s stations are equipped with RFID, enabling shoppers to place their items in a provided bin where items automatically register on the screen, eliminating the need for manual scanning.
    a self-service checkout

    Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

As value-oriented fast fashion players like Shein and Temu, and high-fashion fast fashion brands like Aritzia and Mango put pressure on Zara, we see Zara reinventing itself through the “white box” design in the US. We will continue following Zara’s commitment to elevated design and technology in future stores.

For more inspiration, check out McMillanDoolittle’s recent coverage on new store concepts and openings, such as Wayfair’s first brick-and-mortar store, Arc’ Teryx community-based store launch party, and McDonald’s beverage concept CosMc’s. And, as always, contact us to discuss ways to reimagine your business through design and technology.

Maddie McBride

mmcbride@mdretail.com

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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