NYC Retail: 5 Big Themes

On our recent trip to NYC, as we “watched and walked what’s new” with colleagues from Retail Oasis, a number of key themes emerged. So here’s a snapshot of what stood out and which retailers are leading the way.

#1 Leading with a purpose

In a world where we are more informed and more connected, we’ve become more suspicious of big business too.

That’s why retailers with soul, authenticity and a human story (vs. a transparent corporate one), are doing well. Especially with millennials, who are buying into brands with “purpose and heart”.

One such standout that continues to shine from last year is Shinola. Rising out of the ashes of Detroit with a belief that products should be built to last and built in America, they tell their story at every consumer touch-point, not just add them on as an afterthought.




#2 Experience is everything

In a world of ever-exploding online retail options, the physical store needs to be more than just a place to ‘buy stuff’, it needs to deliver a rich and rewarding experience to pull customers over the lease-line.

New York is continuing to see small brands pop up leading with a purpose for existing vs. simply slotting into traditional retail categories and selling products.

3X1 is a perfect example of this – a denim store that steps it up from the tailor-in-the-front-window trend to bring back the craft of seamstresses and tailors.

The Soho store houses a complete jean manufacturing facility. It’s a rich one-of-a-kind experience that gives consumers a full appreciation of what goes into making a pair of ‘perfect fit’ jeans – albeit at a $1,000+ price tag.




#3 Made how you like it

Me-n-You Manufacturing (MENU) is one of the current big trends, letting consumers go behind the scenes to finish the manufacturing process.

While customisation has been a campaign trick for the last few seasons (who still has a Coke bottle and Nutella jar with their name on it somewhere?), the idea has now gone deeper, with more retailers dedicating their brand purpose to “creating more interesting customer interactions”.

In this favorite trendsetter category we couldn’t separate Bucketfeet and Blank Canvas (a Converse store concept), so have a tie! We found each brand to be equally engaging and entertaining, while supported by great store visual merchandising and involving store experiences.

These retailers are finding new ways to generate store visits (outside of traditional media) and, let’s face it, once you have picked your laces or found that one of your favorite artists has made a limited edition shoe range, it’ll be hard to walk away from the sale.









#4 Making data collection a pleasure not a pain

While data collection continues to become a major focus to enable personalised communication, asking customers outright for contact details rarely delivers a result without offering a reward (not a bribe) for customers.

So it was refreshing to see in their NYC store Warby Parker has brought together old world charm brand presentation with future focused technology to engage customers.

They’ve introduced permanent photo booths that tweet and email digital images, enhancing the store experience while collecting data – clever!

The booths encourage consumers to upload their details to save and share photos of their new eyewear or print them in-store to help them choose. Couple this with social media and you have a do-it-yourself data and social campaign.

Warby Parker reframed the way people think and buy eyewear introducing ‘Find your Five’ trial at home, one-for-one donations to charity, carbon neutral manufacturing and special events for local New Yorkers such as Canine Day.




#5 Being single-minded

As consumers continue to voice the importance of sustainable over throwaway, we are seeing single-minded and single-purpose small concepts pop up around the world. From cupcakes to t-shirts, shoes to notebooks, if you are an emerging retailer, it’s ok to do only one thing and to do it well.

A great example of this is Kit & Ace, named after a female/male muse for the brand, who have built their idea on fabric first. Quality t-shirts and wear that you can jog, do yoga (a tribute to their Lululemon heritage), go to work, play or just hang out at home in. Kit & Ace is all about spreading the word on putting quality innovative fabric first. As a result the brand is gaining strong following and rolling out stores around the globe, including a welcome arrival down the road in Surry Hills.





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