Photo credit: Clara Hendler

The store-within-a-store (SWAS) concept, also referred to as shop-in-shop, is a time-tested partnership in which a retailer dedicates a significant part of the retail space to a brand/retailer to feature the brand’s products. This store within the larger store is sometimes manned by employees of its own.


Photo credit: MyFashDiary

A lookback in retail history offers a glimpse of the store-within-a-store concept booming in anchor department stores, in the early 2000s. While the sign above the entrance may say Macy’s, Nordstrom or any other marquee retailer, the salespeople behind the cosmetics counters inside do not work for the store at all. Instead, these advisors actually work for brand name cosmetics manufacturers in a dedicated (counter) and leased space.

While it's true that the SWAS concept has its roots in anchor-stores, today it's emerging as one of the hottest trends in big box retail. For instance, Apple will be setting up shop inside Target not too far on the heels of the 2020 announcement of the Target-Ulta Beauty SWAS partnership.

Target, which first brought Apple-branded store areas to select locations nearly a decade ago, will now provide its associates with Apple-directed training at select stores to help shoppers in the new dedicated areas. The stores will also feature product demonstrations, while Target’s website and app also now include dedicated Apple areas with an extended assortment of accessories.

And in the world of health and nutrition, GNC already operates as a store-within-a-store in more than 1,600 Rite Aid locations, and recently announced a partnership to roll out curated product assortments to more than 4,000 Walmart stores and on

“With this collaboration we can deliver the GNC experience to a whole new group of consumers,” Josh Burris, CEO of GNC said in a statement. “We’ll be making an impact on new consumers every day in Walmart stores, and when they are ready to take their wellness journeys to the next level, we will welcome them in our stores for the full GNC and coach experience,” Burris added. “When you’re creating long-term consumers and driving growth at this level, that’s where the magic happens.”

To sum up, while retailers and brands resource, cross-market and partner their way through this next phase of retail transformation, many in-store brands might benefit from finding creative ways to invite shoppers into product exploration, product demonstration and attention-getting displays. One thing is for certain:  Shoppers who once enjoyed being courted inside the walls of brick and mortar can look forward to more of the same in these days of the return to retail.

Photo credit: Clara Hendler