On a recent trip to New York, it was clear to me that retailers
are challenging traditional models and are putting inspiration, innovation and
a willingness to redefine the consumer experience at the very heart of their
Coined “experiential retail”, this is a complete reinvention
of the in-store experience. It is creating environments that attract and excite
consumers through features such as spas; cafes; theatres; art exhibitions; and
a host of facilities, along with personalised service; in-store kiosks; 3-D
experiences; pop-up shops; mobile commerce, and much more.
Keen to see what this means in practice, I simply had to
visit the new Reformation store on Bond Street.
The New Kid on the
Reformation’s newest store in Noho is the sustainable
label’s first tech-enabled shop in New York. The 3,500 sq ft white and chrome space
is the brand’s largest shop yet in the United States. The shop is maintained
like a showroom, so every item on the floor is actually a sample piece and there
is only one item displayed at a time. The real shopping is done via touch
screens on the walls; the experience is similar to using the Reformation
website, yet this software only shows items that are in stock. A Reformation
assistant greeted us at the door with a glass of rosé. Intimidation levels:
Customers are encouraged to type their name into the screen
to create a dressing room. You can then add items you want to try on by
scrolling and clicking, as you would on a website. I was quite overwhelmed so
this was a stressful process of scanning and squinting to find things I had
seen on the hangers but couldn’t recognise on the screen. If you are in a
similar state of delirium and you prefer the more physical experience of scanning
the rails of curated clothing, you can use your phone in order to scan the
The Reformation team works behind-the-scenes to pull your
selected pieces from the stock room and places them into your dressing room’s
two-way wardrobe. After checking in at the “Love Desk”, you are directed into
your designated dressing room where all the pieces that you selected are
waiting for you, seamlessly hung.
Each dressing room has a smaller version of the touch-screen
display, so you can carry on shopping or change sizes whilst trying on clothes.
Music and lighting within the dressing rooms can be customised through an aux
cable in your phone to settings that include “Golden,” “Cool,” or “Sexy Time.” Once
the experience is over, you can purchase clothes anywhere in the shop, similar
to the Apple Store, using a card reader each sales assistant has on their
As a whole, the new tech features were great. They gave me
an experience I couldn’t get online and encouraged me to try on more than I
would have otherwise. If you’re still not sold on the tech experience, Reformation
has kept the Soho and Lower East Side locations in the original format. I don’t
know if I had a “Sexy Time”, but it certainly seemed the future of retail.
Other tech savvy NYC
Story at Macy’s:
In a bid to stay current and avoid extinction, the
department store chain, Macy’s, has recently acquired New York City concept
store, Story. Story is a cohesive storytelling retail model that takes the
point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery, and sells like a shop.
Stay with me. Every four to eight weeks, the space reinvents itself – from the
design of the store to the merchandise – with the goal of highlighting a new
theme. Story has a heightened focus on experience, engagement and
collaboration/brand partnerships – something which Macy’s is aiming to gain
Within four months of opening, the ground-breaking flagship
experiential Samsung 837 store, in New York’s Meatpacking District, earned a
place in Forbes world’s top three brand experiences and retail’s top honour for
store design of the year. The store features multiple hands-on product zones;
interactive art; virtual reality and Gear 360 displays; comfortable lounge
areas as well as a recording studio capable of live streaming performances. All
this is centred around a monumental three-store display comprised of 96 55-inch
screens. However, apart from a café on the top floor, visitors have no other
opportunity to purchase anything except a cup of coffee. Literally nada. This
56,000 sq ft “un-store” concept encourages people to learn about the products
in a hassle free environment, without the pressure of buying.
The sportswear retailer’s fifth avenue location has
everything from a juice press to a set of bleachers for customers to watch
games on. It also includes a print shop, where guests can customise new purchases.
A miniature track is set up on one floor where customers can take a run or get
their stride analysed and another floor includes a turf field with footballs,
kettle bells and other workout equipment. Shopping in the fast lane.