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Martin Schnaack & Dhi Matiole Nuñes

THE LATEST Interview with Martin Schnaack and Dhi Matiole-Nuñes

Launched in November 2020 on Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, The Latest store showcases curated new products to help brands market their innovations. A conversation with Dhi Matiole Nunes, Co-Founder of The Latest Store, and Martin Schnaack, CEO of AVANTGARDE and initiator of The Latest.

"The Latest enables innovative brands to|

enter the retail cosmos of AVANTGARDE."|

A shop for innovative lifestyle products that no one knows about yet – and on Ku’damm, i.e. in the heart of Berlin: how did The Latest come about?

Martin: The basic idea behind The Latest is that many people – including myself – are constantly looking for innovative products. You can find many exciting ideas on the internet, but you can’t try them out. But that is precisely what is crucial for real innovations. And with The Latest, we make it possible to touch and try.

Dhi: I previously worked for seven years at a large electronics store. There I noticed how rarely start-ups make it into the assortment. With The Latest, we offer founders with ingenious ideas a chance to present their product at a first-class location – on a stage that young brands usually can’t afford. The Latest also offers established brands the opportunity to position themselves in a new, design- and innovation-driven environment and thus expand their existing target group.

Martin: In that sense, The Latest also has a lot to do with the beginnings of AVANTGARDE. We started in the mid-80s with the development of platforms for young fashion designers who had great potential but not yet a foothold on the established catwalks of this world. Here, too, we were very successful in providing a big stage and the corresponding attention.

In the meantime, AVANTGARDE is a company with many years of retail experience, for example as the operator of the approximately 60 IQOS stores in Germany and Austria. What strategic role does The Latest play within the AVANTGARDE Group?

Martin: Retail is undergoing an immense transformation – in the next five years, this sector will change more than in the past 50 years. The trend is clearly going in the direction of brand experience, which is exactly our field of expertise. With The Latest Store, we let young companies participate in our many years of experience with renowned brands. The Latest is thus a kind of entry level for start-ups into the retail cosmos of AVANTGARDE.

Dhi: AVANTGARDE also has great expertise in data analysis. At The Latest, we collect valuable market research data – in compliance with data protection laws, of course – via sensors in the store and via the website and social media, for example on the gender, age group, route and length of stay of customers. This not only helps the brands themselves with the market success of their products, but also flows back into AVANTGARDE’s know-how – and can then be used in a targeted way for other brands.

The Latest was launched in the middle of the Corona crisis and thus in a challenging phase for the stationary trade. In retrospect, was the timing wrong?

Martin: We were – and are – so convinced of the idea for The Latest that the pandemic was simply not a counter-argument. When we are convinced of an idea, we don’t let ourselves be stopped.

What are the next steps for The Latest?

Dhi: The Latest is not just a store, but a platform that builds and engages a community interested in new products. Our goal is to expand this community and develop new stores as further touchpoints. We are currently looking for a suitable space in London, and we also have Zurich and Shanghai on our radar. We want to enable innovative brands to try out their products in different markets. Furthermore, we are working on the development of a digital “product launch platform” to offer brands the best stage to bring their new products to market in a targeted and efficient way.

What new retail projects does AVANTGARDE itself currently have in the pipeline?

Martin: We are currently developing a retail offer in different scaling sizes for brands that want to enter the German market: shop-in-shop, pop-up store and flagship store. This is a retail-as-a-service model in which companies receive all the services they need for their market entry as a complete solution from us for a flat fee – from the search for space to store furnishing and product presentation as well as staff. AVANTGARDE is thus consistently expanding its Retail as a Service offering.

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