Pilot stores are defined as “a prototype store used to test management practices, systems and products”.  These stores have one clear objective and raison d’être: to attract new customers! 

Industry giants pick their best stores to test out new initiatives that could change their business for the better. The importance of a pilot store is to have a controlled environment where data can be collected before engaging in a transformation to a large scale. This is particularly important for retail brands present all over the world. Today we will take a look at two examples in fashion retail brands: Zara and H&M


After a brief dip in sales in 2018, H&M opted for focusing on creating experiences for its customers rather than change their products. In other words, it wanted to test a more luxurious approach, which some of its competitors were already doing.  

It started off with a pilot store in the upmarket of Karlaplan, Stockholm, where the stored offered a more selective choice of clothes in a color coordinated manner, testing out its visual merchandising techniques. The store also offered coffee as well as exclusive events for loyalty club members, including yoga classes, and mingle events. Overall the idea was to get much closer to the consumer and create a more personal attachment.  

This pilot served H&M to see where to go next with its consumer!


Zara tends to opt for an identical layout and aesthetic worldwide. Visual merchandisers at HQ use pilot stores to test the interior design of each store in each of its categories (women, men, home).

However, these pilot stores are off-limits to the public and located in Zara HQ, they are used exclusively to experiment with the “look and feel” of the store before releasing any new collections, receiving new items twice a week. 

Visual merchandisers and 31 architects determine the most visually pleasing, and most logical layout for the Zara stores worldwide. They also work with retail managers to adapt their techniques locally to each store.

We have seen two different examples of the use of pilot stores by industry giants. If you find retail fascinating join our diploma course International Retail Management before July 26th!