World’s first ‘smart street’ offers glimpse of retail’s future

Bird Street probably isn’t a shopping destination you’ll have heard of before. This previously unassuming road off Oxford Street has been transformed in recent weeks into a traffic-free experiential leisure and retail space. We have taken a look at how it’s going down with the public; using our 5Drivers model of consumers’ governing emotions to explore its effects.

#Immersion in an innovative, nature-led space

The colour scheme is fun and striking – instantly signalling a change from the familiar grey hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. An astro-turf floor gives the street a summery glow; birdsong (albeit piped in through a speaker) fills the air, and everything feels like a refreshing break from the frenetic pace of London shopping. Whilst few in number, the stores also have a distinctive look, and the ‘origami’ doorways create intrigue and dissolve barriers to exploration.

Fostering #Belonging with ethics and authenticity

The array of retailers feels like a select group chosen to be in keeping with the natural theme. Each presents a unique proposition – from ‘High Mood Food’, a pure food café with no refined sugars, to Nina Ullrich’s minimalist leather accessories. Visitors can meet the creators of the products on sale; a personal touch that offers a glimpse into the stories behind the brands – most of which aren’t familiar to the average shopper and provide a distinct alternative to the global names that neighbour Bird Street on all sides.

#Belonging and Immersion: feeling connected to feel-good shopping

The most impressive part of Bird Street is the technology; much of which works hard to protect the environment and leave visitors feeling virtuous as well as excited. Benches along the sides of the street generate cleaner air, using filters to literally create a purer retail environment. The paint used in the striking colour scheme removes bacteria and neutralises pollutants. The central walkway turns the power of shoppers’ steps into electricity, fuelling the birdsong by day and lighting by night. An app allows you to see how much power your steps produced and rewards you with in-the-moment discounts at the surrounding retailers. Meanwhile, selfie labs and mobile payment apps also help build the sense that you’ve been transported to an advanced, futuristic version of London.

Bird Street is an inspiring and unique idea that truly challenges the way we currently shop and the retail environments we’ve become used to. Whether the vision will serve as a model for the future remains to be seen, but ABA believes it offers clues to the types of innovation we are all likely to see migrate from side street to high street.



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