Welcome to the Perfect Stores

Story By
D Metta

Retail, the final link to the customer. Be it a bookstore or a fruit stall or a hair salon, the retail business has been around since time immemorial. It can be found all across the world in various types and shapes and sizes. Unsurprisingly, it’s also a business field with one of the fiercest competitions.

A lot of factors influence the success of a retail business, including the quality of the products, store location, and customer service. Most speak for themselves, but in the end, they all boil down to one thing: creating an experience for the customer. And when it comes to retail experience, the more memorable it is, the better. Making a good impression is more than half the battle won. A unique concept or a striking appearance can make the difference between life and death for the business.

The rule of thumb is clear: in a business as competitive as this, being mediocre kills.

Molecure Pharmacy
Taichung, Taiwan

Designed by Waterfrom Design, Molecure is a breath of fresh air in the predictable field of Taiwan’s pharmacy business. Owned by the third generation of a family long engaged in the business, Molecure is eager to depart from the stodgy stereotypes of conventional pharmacies. The name itself—an amalgamation of two words, ‘molecule’ and ‘cure’—reflects this sentiment. The store concept is also an amalgamation of two seemingly contradictory ideas: ‘primitive’ and ‘modern’; ‘primitive’ in the sense of returning to the original purpose of a pharmacy, which is to extract molecules from nature in order to promote better health; and ‘modern’, for making use of the relentless advance of technology to achieve that purpose.

This philosophy is reflected in the physical appearance of the store. Light-colored cobblestones adorn the walls on each side of the room. In contrast to this natural element, a combination of lightweight glass and transparent acrylic form rows of display racks with crisscrossing metal cords serving as a framework for the lighting network as well as part of the décor. The overall result is a bright, open space, a complete opposite to the usual cluttered drugstore. The generous spacing of the racks also allows merchandise to sit easily without elbowing each other, throwing just enough splashes of color onto the muted walls.

The core of the store is a laboratory table, made from stacks of solid wood and a large old tree trunk as the base. Hanging overhead are green plants suspended on thin, transparent wires, giving the place an organic feel. In this open dispensing area, customers can chat comfortably with the on-duty pharmacist.

Marseille, France

ESSENTIEL is a concept store designed by Rémy Marciano that combines a restaurant, a boutique, and a health center. Located in Marseilles’ Les Voûtes de la Major, one of the largest shopping complexes in France, the store promotes balance and sustainability through its many aspects.

The first and most obvious is the building itself. Les Voûtes de la Major is a rehabilitated space at the base of the Cathedral de la Major. Having been transformed into shops, the place nevertheless retains much of the original building—from its high, arcing roofs (known in the architectural circle as voûtes, or vaults) to the centuries-old walls with all of the history permeating its bricks and peeling plaster.

ESSENTIEL’s philosophy is also reflected in the light wood-and-stone décor. The restaurant is separated from the boutique by a minimal forest of bare tree trunks and offers a choice of healthy refreshments (gourmet vegetarian cuisine, fresh fruit juices, even a detox lunch) while the boutique displays an array of eco-friendly products from good-quality hemp scarves to organic cotton T-shirts. A careful arrangement of natural and artificial lighting gives the space a warm, inviting ambience.

Photos by Kuomin Lee, Takuji Shimmura