With so many online shopping options, one rarely needs to set foot in a brick-and-mortar store these days. But the experiences that some shops across the globe offer just don’t translate on a website, making a visit essential. Being in these stores is as important as the items that are for sale, making them true destinations in and of themselves.
These establishments fall into different categories: There are the spectacle stores—giant, multifloor labyrinths that require you to get a little lost to really enjoy the experience. If buying a couch, a suit and a stiff drink under the same roof appeals, look no further than Dunhill and its variety of flagship “Homes” around the world, including one that occupies half of Shanghai’s famous Twin Villas. Ralph Lauren offers its wares at its legendary Madison Avenue mansion.
About as far removed from the megastore is the club-like shop, which reflects its hometown to a tee and establishes itself as a cozy social haven that shoppers flock to join. Others have storied histories. Marlon Brando once arm wrestled the owner of Rome’s Battistoni, and Fred Astaire would dance on the cutting tables at Anderson & Sheppard on Savile Row to try out new suits. And then there is the new generation. The Armoury in Hong Kong is less than two years old, but a combination of small-production artisan offerings and a tight, unbeatably stylish and immensely knowledgeable staff has already made it a world-class institution.
It is this pairing of great products and even better people that makes a real destination store, whether big or small, local or international. Just remember: A tailor can’t measure you through a computer screen; a shoemaker can’t fit you via a webcam; and you certainly can’t pet Bob, the mascot Norwich terrier at Arnys in Paris, over the Internet.