Store review

NYC - Explorer

By Kirsty Kean | 15.02.19

What you can learn from our latest retail visit to New York; the importance of product education; an online brand putting its best foot forward and a new arrival creating a buzz.

New York never fails to deliver on the inspiration front. The opportunities to learn about the ‘new’ and the ‘next’ are plentiful with retailers understanding the importance of storytelling and education to create brand loyal customers.


73 Spring St, New York, NY 10012, USA


The latest example of a brand making the retail journey in reverse, online footwear retailer Allbirds has only recently started to open physical stores after seeing success online with its iconic wool trainers. It was the Silicon Valley techies that adopted this footwear as their own and made this start-up popular. And no one is cooler than millionaire geeks these days.

Located in trendy Soho, their NYC store has been open for less than six months and attempts to do what any good website should – educate and inspire customers.

Compare to the brand’s first store in San Francisco, it is more spacious giving products more room to breathe. Deliberately minimalistic, it is part Nespresso store (shoe boxes on display at till) and part sports shoe store but with a handful of products featured on conventional wall based displays. The ‘wow’ factor is added through showpiece installations that highlight Allbirds’ ethos for using sustainable and natural materials; wool, sugar and trees. Chairs, made from similar materials are the only furniture in the space encouraging the customer to stay a while in the Allbirds bricks and mortar world.

This store is a great example of telling a brand story through visual messages. The Allbirds USP is both the sustainability and comfort associated with its products. When what you’re selling is somewhat intangible, educating your customer has to be a top priority.


110 5th Ave, New York, NY 10011, USA


If the collapse of Toys R Us told us anything, it’s that traditional retailers – specifically those appealing to kids – need to up their game. The folks at Buzzfeed, the company behind this new store on 5th Avenue, believe they have all the answers.

Camp is not a pop up store, although it does resemble one. The space was formerly occupied by casual retail brand Joe Fresh and has 11,000 square feet of space, as well as a 2,500-square-foot basement. Part crèche, part store and part kids party venue, it reinvents the kids space with a focus on play, learning, social interaction and experience.

Not content with creating this as a one-off, the entire experience is set up to change every 8-12 weeks, working in conjunction with various brands. At the moment it is Mastercard – “Base Camp is a priceless experience”.

What at first appears to be a traditional children’s store selling toys, books, clothing and gifts changes dramatically once you find the hidden entrance. And as every child knows, secret doors are gateways to adventure! This one doesn’t disappoint, revealing a ‘secret world’.

Here, children can experience all kinds of play, interactive themed elements in a safe, family friendly environment. The first theme being a Summer Camp… the woods, the wild, streams and tree houses… a playful environment to fire kids imagination and get them off their tablets. Complete with a musical boardwalk, a slide that leads to a disco room, sing-a-longs and, ultimately, a retail store, it is unlikely any parents will leave with a full wallet.

As a real competitor to the customary museum visit, are educational retail spaces the future instead? It’s certainly an ingenious way to create brand loyal customers for generations to come.


Starbucks Reserve
61 9th Ave. New York, NY 10011, USA


Starbucks surpassed cult status a long time ago – there’s no denying the impact it has had on western society.

New York is the setting for the brand’s fourth ‘Roastery’ concept. It’s a beautiful, museum-like destination designed to appeal to coffee aficionados, office workers and tourists that goes far beyond just ordering a Caramel Latte to go. This is not a coffee shop but a premium coffee emporium, complete with three cafes, a restaurant, bar, bakery and store selling Starbucks merchandise.

The star feature, however, is the in-house Roastery – a huge ‘Willy Wonka’ like installation of copper pipes, industrial rollers, conveyors and shiny bilious vessels, all connected by a tangle of precision pipe work. Offering a three-dimensional window into the coffee journey, visitors can start by planting a virtual coffee tree and finish by trying one of the six new coffees that will arrive in the Starbucks Reserve every month.

It’s an experience designed to educate customers on the art and science that goes into cultivating, roasting and serving a Starbucks coffee. As a brand concept it’s a bold and interesting leadership move. At a time when the market is saturated with places to get coffee, this is Starbucks exerting is authority and expertise in the form of experience, ideas and scale.

The smell is warm, intense and overwhelming. If you love the smell of freshly roasted coffee, this is surely your nirvana. It certainly makes for the ultimate Starbucks brand experience.


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