Berlin, Mitte District – PEOPLE FIRST

Successful brands are putting themselves at the heart of the local community and providing a platform for people to extend their lifestyles. It is a people first plan. This strategy was clearly in evidence from a recent visit to the ultra cool Mitte district of Berlin.

The new H&M Mitte Garden store perfectly exemplifies the trend. This shop is the antithesis of the flagship store; the latter developed to offer the most similar experience to shopping online. This ‘hyper local’ store, with pale green walls, high vaulted ceiling and wooden shelves is only 3oosqm, a test by H&M. How do you make a global company local?

H&M have evolved a neighbourhood concept with a selection of lifestyle items such as perfumes, bags and cosmetics from different niche brands, as well as vintage clothing and encouraging local designers in a compact friendly environment to include space for talks, events, yoga and art exhibitions. A garden cafe provides the opportunity to meet friends. The store also has an increased emphasis on sustainability, noticeable in many other shops there too.

Close by, and with a touch of irony, Soho House have opened in a listed building constructed in the 1920s which began life as Jonass & Co, a seven storey department store with a rooftop restaurant. This wonderful building, constructed in the ‘new objectivity’ style now operates as a private members club where lifestyle is everything for the arts, media and creative soul fraternity. Adjacent to the ground floor Cecconi’s restaurant, is a new hybrid retail, art and co-working concept called The Store. This is a 2,8oosqm cultural hub for eclectic fashion, food, art installations, co-working and photography. This is a private member/creative agency combo, open to everyone, so bringing Soho House cool to the masses. People can just hang out there all day, a place for their community.

On Munzstrasse and Alte Schonhauserstrasse in the Mitte district, there are numerous other examples of how brands are going beyond the traditional retail model by offering people real engagement and experience to interact with the brand, and connect with like minded consumers. Rapha and Ace & Tate (design and manufacture their own eye wear) are both represented here, brands which have established reputations for product excellence, technology, innovation and brand interaction.

Fashion brand, Ecoalf (the first fashion brand in Spain to become B Corp TM -be the best in the world and for the world with one unifying goal -to redefine success in business) has built a one hundred percent ecological store and its products use the highest quality recycled fabrics to create a new generation of sustainable products -because there is no planet B. Meanwhile, La Labo will hand blend botanical perfumery to your personal preference through their in store consultancy service. At Bugaboo, make a personal appointment or arrive and test push your baby pushchair in store over an artificial rough terrain incline, followed by a relaxing drink in their cafe. They did their research too as apparently the area has the highest birth rate in Europe!

Finally, the cafes are also tailored to people’s personal preferences. The bakery/coffee shop where handmade organic bread at Zeit fur Brot is so popular, there is a permanent queue. These brands have not only put people at the heart of their ecosystem, they have also developed a clear purpose for their business. This combination of a forensic focus on people, set in beautifully designed places, coupled with a higher business purpose than just sales, are a combination for brand success. This is all also part of the overall success of Mitte.