The Journey



Have you noticed how some of the most intriguing, innovative and rewarding retail experiences are about journeys, about discovery?

I spend a lot of my time looking at stores and retail experiences around the world. It’s part of my job – and my passion. I’m a retail strategist and shopping futurist. My job is to understand how people shop in order to help retailers and brands think about how best to attract and keep shoppers.

journey_store_192.jpgWhat’s most fascinating about what I do is that I get to see what makes a really exciting shopping experience — and what doesn’t. Now it should be said right here and now that if you don’t love (even occasionally like) to shop, you probably don’t want my job – or, for that matter, you may not want to read on. But if you do, come on a journey with me. A shopping journey.

Last spring, I was in Australia to make a speech about the future of retail. I grew up in Australia so I’m pretty familiar with the shopping territory. But not this territory.

One morning, I had a little time off, so a friend and I wandered around an inner city neighborhood known for its growing art community in Melbourne (Australia’s second largest city). As we came around a corner we immediately stopped in our tracks in front of a small glass-fronted store called The Victorian Tapestry Workshop.

What drew us in to the simple white and glass space were the colored yarns. From floor to ceiling, around all the walls, block upon block of color, arranged hue by hue. It was like a wonderful old-fashioned candy store. We couldn’t resist going in, to be immersed in all the colors, to touch and feel the yarns.


Once inside, I noticed a door slightly ajar leading into a big open space. Perhaps a warehouse? A stock room? We peaked in, and like Alice(s) in Wonderland, through the looking glass, we discovered one of the most magical places I have ever been.

Hidden behind this small store was a workshop where some of the most breathtaking tapestries – artworks – were being created for museums, cathedrals and office buildings around the world.


In this massive gallery-like space, with soaring ceiling 60 feet high, with natural light cascading through leaded windows, artists sat at their looms creating six feet, 12 feet, 30 feet long tapestries. Surrounding them were spools and spools of the many-colored yarns that had first tempted us to walk into the little storefront.

journey_workshop_02_192.jpgAt the back, one team was creating an Australian landscape in bold primary colors, another team a bay all blue and shimmery, and in front two artists women were creating a portrait of a black-haired woman with a delicate lace shirt. Awestruck, we observed it all from a mezzanine above the workshop. Wherever we looked there was something new to discover, to experience – a color, a texture, the light. A space transformed. A journey revealed. All behind a small innocuous inner city store where a glimpse of color began our journey.

The fact is that whether you’re in a store, shopping a website, even wandering through a museum, the very best experiences, those that stay with you and encourage you to come back again, are the ones where the story unfolds piece by piece, step by step, until the magic is revealed.

I’ve lots more shopping journeys to tell about from my travels. I’d love to hear about yours too. Drop me an email at

Cheers, Wendy Liebmann