In PSFK’s Chicago Retail Guide, we highlight some of the key players creating innovative retail and hospitality concepts in the Windy City

Chicago has always been a shopping city, growing from a fur-trading outpost in the 19th century to a major center for mail-order retail in the 20th century. Today, the city remains an important retail hub for a new generation of brands. PSFK’s Chicago Retail Guide highlights some of the key players who are establishing innovative brick-and-mortar concepts and creating memorable experiences for consumers.

Here's how five brands and retailers are innovating in Chicago, whether by bringing ecommerce to life, developing memorable store experiences, or offering stellar hospitality.

Leap | Lincoln Park
Leap is a Chicago-based startup that provides a platform for digitally native brands to seamlessly establish a physical retail presence. The retail-as-a-service platform handles everything from staffing to experiential design to day-to-day operations. Instead of paying a lease, companies pay Leap a percentage of their sales, which minimizes their risk. Leap’s gallery-like Lincoln Park location serves as the first Chicago location for Koio, the high-end direct-to-consumer sneaker brand.

Address: 924 West Armitage Avenue

McDonald’s Flagship | River North
McDonald’s flagship location highlights the fast food chain’s growing focus on mobile technology and customer personalization, attracting an audience that favors the convenience of self-serve kiosks as well as mobile ordering and payment. The 19,000-square-foot restaurant also showcases an environmentally-friendly design with abundant green spaces and energy-saving features.

Address: 600 North Clark Street

Marine Layer | Wicker Park
The second floor of clothing retailer Marine Layer has been turned into an Airbnb apartment available to anyone passing through Chicago. The space is furnished in warm Marine Layer tones and textures, extending the store experience into temporary living quarters. Airbnb guests are treated to a generous store discount during their stay.

Address: 1646 North Damen Avenue

Barnes & Noble Mellody Farm | Vernon Hills
The suburban Vernon Hills location of bookstore retailer Barnes & Noble has been revamped and newly reopened. The new iteration serves as a prototype for a more community-oriented brick-and-mortar browsing experience; shoppers are invited to approach the store as a place of leisure where they can mingle with friends and attend book signings in the store’s new flexible event space.

Address: 901 North Milwaukee Avenue

via @neilstrongbn

Sleep Sherpa | River North
The new retail showroom of online mattress review website Sleep Sherpa gives shoppers a new way see, compare, and buy mattresses from new and established brands. Shoppers can try out a wide selection of mattress brands, many of which are online only, in order to boost shopper confidence and decreasing the likelihood of returns. Most mattresses will not be available for immediate purchase in store. Instead, shoppers will complete their purchase online.

Address: 415 West Huron Street

This is just a sampling of the innovation in retail, store design and customer experience that the Windy City has to offer. For the full listings, see PSFK’s report The Chicago Retail Guide.

Lead image: Koio store via Leap