41 Experimental & Concept Stores in New York (2019)

Published by Ronny Max on

Experimental retail comes in many flavors, including flagship, iconic, and concept stores. If you are in New York City, visit these new retail concept stores to see the future of physical retail.

What is a Concept Store?

The Concept Store is where innovative retail optimizes the In-Store Customer’s Journey.

The store may have an awesome retail experience with layout and products and colors design, experimental & immersive retail features such as a coffee shop and brand curation and smart (digital) fitting rooms, and interactive & anonymous people tracking technologies.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: Want actionable insights for 2020? Visit Showfields for Concept Curation (instead of Department Stores), and Nike’s House of Innovation for Customer Co-Creation (market research & product development)

Experimental Retail in 2019

NRF 2019 was designated as the “Dawn of Experimental Shopping“. From customer-centric interactive technologies (i.e. Augment Reality Mirrors) to back-office platforms for 24/7 shopping and in-store delivery, the physical store is being revitalized.

Here are the top retail trends for physical stores in 2019:

  • In-Store Digital Retail: In Direct-to-Consumer concepts, retailers and brands entice their customers to enter their contact information or download the brand’s application for personalized marketing offers and innovative pricing models such as rentals, resales, and subscription.
  • Immersive Store Experience: Retailers are moving away from a product-only sales model. Today, shoppers expect an amazing experience with fun (gamification), effective (service), and engaging (technology) physical store environment.
  • Customer Research & Product Customization: Probably the most important trend in 2019 is using the physical store as the frontline research center. The industry jargon is Customer Co-Creation.
Nike’s House of Innovation serves as Frontline Research Center (Ronny Max)

Retail 2020: Trends you should watch out for include innovation and expansion of unstaffed stores, the entry of Chinese brands, and in-store live streaming and voice interactive technologies.

NRF 2020 theme is Vision: Bring the Future into Focus. The agenda is filled with words such as “transformation”, “immersive”, and “experience”. The good news is that the retailers, and everyone else in the industry’s eco-system, shifted away from panic to action. Fun!

Ronny’s Pro Tip: Traditional retailers have a HUGE advantage compare to online darlings, including Amazon. Their customers come into the store every single day, in person! Ask your visitors & buyers why they come. The answers will surprise you 🙂

NEW Retail Stores opened in 2019

  • Nordstrom Flagship: 320,000 sq and 7 floors of awesome, including 2 floors for beauty and 100 services such as facials. It is worth a visit just to see the wave-form glass facade, and – my personal fantasy – a cocktail bar in the middle of the shoe department 🙂 The flagship store is located on 57th Street & Broadway
  • IKEA Planning Center: A long staircase will take into a variety of kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms. Designed for urban life, you can purchase in the store but the furniture will be delivered directly to your home. Located at Mid-Manhattan at 999 3rd Ave
  • BirchBox at Walgreens & Duane Read: Birchbox disrupted retail with its subscription business. In partnership with Walgreens, customers will be able to design their own beauty box in-store. One of the 11 stores is at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan
  • Fablethics Popup in Soho: People who are brand new to Feblethics think about its founder Kate Hudson. But Fablethics is a true trailblazer in the digitalized physical store & in-store optimization. The popup is located at 577 Broadway.
  • Amazon Go: The touchless convenience store has arrived in NYC. You need to be a Prime Member to enter because this is where customers opt-in is to be scanned and analyzed…Check out the first Amazon Go. Brookfield Place at West Lower Manhattan.
  • Petco Pet Kitchen: Experimental Retail is not just for humans 🙂 Taking a cue from the many retail stores that now have an in-store cafe, Petco added a live pet food kitchen. Union Square.
  • Puma Flagship: The athletics brand’s first physical store in North America is massive, and is located close to Nike and Addidas at Midtown. You can check out the F1 racing simulator and test boots in a soccer simulator. I love this quote from CEO Bjoern Gulden. “This location is another place to talk to the consumer.” 609 5th Ave
  • Shops at Hudson Yards: The $25 Billion development, with more than 100 retail stores and a “floor of discovery”, is considered the most expensive shopping center and real-estate development in the United States. Check Neiman Marcus. West Side Yard 12th Ave

Here are examples of outstanding in-store retail experiences:

2019 NYC Best Concept Store:  Nike’s Flagship “House of Innovation”

In the flagship store on 5th Avenue (650 5th Ave), Nike revolutionized the retail/brand model of Direct to Consumer.

“Nike Live is the result of a singular vision: to design the most locally-relevant experience out there leveraging digital with personal service”

Cathy Sparks, VP/GM of Global Nike Direct Stores & Service

Beyond the chic design and cool vibes of urban Millennials, Nike considers the NYC store as the “Face of Living Retail”.

The true strength of the store comes from a mix of an amazing experience for customers with a dose of serious actionable insights.

For example, customer loyalty is front and center. In the store, shoppers can customize their shoes, scan & pay, and get expert help from the staff and Nike’s fan community.

And embedded in the immersive design are the enticements to enroll in Nike’s digital world. Surrounding the gigantic display that tops from first to the sixth floor, and the spiral stairway, there are digital displays that will entice you to:

Experimental Retail & Customer Co-Creation at Nike’s Makers Studio (Ronny Max)
  • Download the Nike App: AR-Based digital experience that follows you home
  • Get Expert Help: How to find, and customize, the perfect product for you
  • Deliver with Courier Service: anywhere in the city
  • Buy It. Try it: No questions asked return guarantee
  • Ask for iterations: when perfect is not good enough…

Here’s the brilliance behind the Nike App:

The customers can scan their foot and upload the design to their application.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: The 3D Spatial and Vision AI Deep Learning technologies create a win-win. Customers get the “perfect fit”. Nike gets a “personalized picture” of the individual customer.

Regardless of you are Nike’s fan or not, this is a magnificent store to visit.

Most importantly, the store is a successful example of how brands should conduct market research. Working with customers to customize shoes, Nike can identify the dreams of their VIP Buyers.

Nike NYC makes real our vision of living retail — a dynamic and active shopping experience in an environment that’s as responsive as digital.

Heidi O’Neill, President of Nike Direct

The SoHo Boutique of Rebecca Minkoff

Interactive and immersive customer experience in Rebecca Minkoff Soho Flagship Store (Source NRF 2018)

Rebecca Minkoff cracked the code for Unified Commerce.

The sauce to the brand’s staggering success is a mix of high tech stores, discounted warehouse, and savvy online site and sales strategy.

Located in Soho (96 Greene Street), the tiny flagship store is packed with high tech. The technology connects Smart Walls, RFID Tags, and Digital Fitting Rooms for seamless and interactive customer experience.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: Rebecca Minkoff created a customer-centric retail experience where each step in the Customer’s Journey is captured, measured, and analyzed.

As you walk into the boutique store, the first thing you see is a long mirror on the wall. Part touch screen, part mirror, the Smart Wall serves as the gateway to the store. Shoppers can search for products, colors, and sizes.

On the Smart Wall, you can ask Rebecca Minkoff for her personal recommendations.

And you can also order coffee, tea, or a glass of champagne.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: Physical stores should have an on-site promotion or event to get the shoppers’ contact info. Asking for a phone number during checkout tends to backfire. Focus on the benefits to your consumers

Here’s the secret – every digital page entices you to enter your phone number and go to the fitting rooms. This serves two purposes.

#1 The phone numbers are an entry point to the retailer’s loyalty list.

#2 The digital fitting rooms are the store’s highest level of conversion.

While Rebecca Minkoff is known for her designer bags, the focus in the Soho store is apparel.

The bags, accessories, and dresses are tagged with RFID. It allows the retailer to monitor which products enter the fitting room.

Inside the digital fitting room, mirrors, lights and communication power the customer’s immersive shopping experience.

You can change the lights to see how you look in different shades. You can browse styles. And if you need a different size or color or even an accessory, you all need is to push the call button for customer service.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: Smart fitting rooms fail if the retailer does not consider HOW the checkout experience is in context with staff policies, sales process & consumer behaviors.

Here’s another fabulous feature: the smart fitting room is a self-service checkout.

Innovative Smart Wall at Rebbeca Minkoff (Source: Reality Interactive)

The digital fitting room takes away the friction of the checkout.

During the fitting experience, customers can enter their credit cards and pay. By combining the “touch and feel” with the checkout, the retailer reduced friction in the sales process.

And it works. During the first year, sales of apparel tripled.

An important benefit of the data is better incentives for the store’s associates.

Beyond the initial visit to the store, the staff can connect with customers.

In return, the associates receive commissions from online purchases.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: 90% of technology projects don’t fail. 90% of technology projects that DON’T take into account the retailer’s policies and employees do.

The Soho vintage store serves a marketing vehicle. The store hosts a variety of events, from women groups to student programs.

Rebbeca Minkoff also sponsors street parties and parades. The flagship store is often promoted to the press as the Connect Store.

The physical store is one piece in the business model.

Nearby, the retailer has a warehouse that sells discounted designer clothes and bags.

And the online store serves as a vibrant and global store.

The Rebecca Minkoff high-tech store is a great example of selling fun and fashion.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: From the customer’s point of view, the smart store is a “cool store”. For the retailer & brand, the physical store is the best way to entice people for their personal data and start the customer’s journey

The Amazing Retail Experience of Sonos

The game-oriented customer experience at the amazing experimental Sonos Sound Booth (Source Ronny Max)

Sonos is the ultimate physical-store-turned-into-game (Gamification).

While Sonos sells stereos and speakers, it positions itself as a Home Sound System.

The In-Store Sonos Sound application connects multiple speakers, in different rooms, for a powerful experience.

The value of the Sound Booth to the customer is the immersive sound of music.

As you walk into the store, the long corridor is aligned with sound-proof booths. The booths are designed to emulate the home. Each wall symbolizes a room – Living Room, Dining Room, and Kitchen.

At the center of the booth, there is a tablet where you can play with the Sonos application.

The software connects the multiple speakers around the booth. You can change songs, control the features such as sound, and check speakers in each room.

Since you are standing in a sound-proof booth, the music takes over. It is an amazing, immersive, and interactive customer experience.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: Some people view experimental retail as a cliche, but the Sonos store is innovative retailing in the sense that it has a very defined marketing segment (young adults), clarity in the promotion (gamification), and is located in a trendy part of New York City (Soho). In other words, a successful online strategy translated into offline.

Gamification is a successful strategy in selling to young adults, which is the core retail segment.

The sound-proof booth serves as the trigger for customers to engage with the products. And the customer experience is both personal and social. There were 4 people in the group and we spend more than 20 minutes in the store.

Sonos sells speakers but their store tells the love of sound.

67% of retail winners strongly agree that the physical store will stay the “primary face to the consumer”

– RSR Research, The Retail Store 2018, from Apocalypse to Renaissance.

Ronny Max – NYC Store Tour (2019)

The stores are listed according to their district in NYC. You should use Google Maps as your Guide. Click here for Ronny’s Store Tour.

Innovative Flagship Stores in Midtown

Midtown Manhattan covers the areas surrounding Times Square, Penn Station, and their offshoot streets. If you have a couple of hours to stroll around, this is a worthwhile tour to see the tourist soul of New York City.

  • Adidas (565 5th Ave): The flagship store of Adidas includes a track for runners, customized shirts, and bleachers in front of gigantic digital screens.
  • Amazon Books (7 W 34th St.): A bookstore to sell devices such as Alexa Echo and Kindles. Pricing is done through the web, with special discounts to Prime Members.
  • American Cover Girl (75 Rockefeller Plaza): Interactive and innovative stores for girls. In the Girl & Doll salon, dolls et hairstyling, ear piercing, and manicures.
  • Dyson (640 5th Ave): The new appliance flagship is both a museum and a demo store. Vacuum cleaners can be cool!
  • Dover Street Market (160 Lexington Ave): Designer clothes mixed with seasonal flavors and a gourmet cafe.
  • Lululemon (597 5th Ave): This sportswear flagship offers experience over a purchase, with meditation studio and Zen Pods.
  • Macy’s b8ta (151 W 34th St.): High tech & high touch showroom inside Macy’s. The store-within-store concept is revitalizing the traditional department store.
  • MM.Lafleur (130 W. 42nd St.): Buy your business apparel “by appointment” and a glass of champagne. Your purchase will be delivered, in a box, directly to your home.
  • Nike (650 5th Ave.): Nike’s House of Innovation includes customized shoes, expert advice, tailoring, courier delivery and more. NYC Concept Store for 2019.
  • Nordstrom Men’s Store (235 W 57th Street ): Nordstrom opened its first and new store in NYC as men-only. Check out the AR projected on the store’s mannequins.
  • Sephora Beauty TIP Workshop (112 West 34th St): The focus is beauty services, with 15-minute touch-up, 45-minute makeover or 90-minute customized consultation.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: With innovations such as b8ta for beauty and underpants (Thinx) and Story for themed collections, Macy’s is a leader for department stores going through a facelift. Visit the flagship store on 34th Street to see how the conflict between the traditional and experimental retail are playe with the format of store-within-store.

Designer & Futuristic Stores in Chelsea & Meatpacking Districts

Chelsea and its next-door neighbor, Meatpacking district, are hip locations where trendy restaurants and nightlife replaced warehouses.

Flavors of New York City in RH Flagship Store (Souce Ronny Max)
  • RH, formerly Restoration Hardware (9 9th Ave): A stunning new store for upscale furniture and home. Check the rooftop restaurant, wine terrace, and design services.
  • Samsung 837 (837 Washington): Smartphone, tablets, and Augmented Reality. A good place to chill out, eat a bite, and play with Augmented Reality.

Cool Retail Stores – Experimental, Vintage & Boutiques in the Streets of Soho

The best shopping streets of New York City are in Soho. This tiny hub of streets is full of boutiques and small shops catering to affluent Millennials and self-aspiring students. Always interesting!

  • Allbirds (68 Prince Street): For lovers of high-end footwear, this is a place to learn more about how to design shoes, including the open-source Sugar Zaffer flipflops.
  • Amazon 4Star (72 Spring St): This store displays only products that received votes of 4 plus. This is the power of recommendations in action.
  • Amour Vert (8 Prince St): A fashion boutique that considers itself American-made sustainable
  • Cadillac House (330 Hudson St): A car showroom, coffee shop, Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Retail Lab and an art gallery live together under one roof.
  • Converse (560 Broadway): This store is simply beautiful. Add a customization lab, and you have a store for the hardcore fans of Converse. Design Rules!
  • Em Pty Gallery (51 Mercer St): Designer boutique. A beautiful example of a designer’s vintage store.
  • Everlane (28 Prince St.): A brick-and-mortar store with an integrated I.D. system. The wallet-free shopping experience is a “friction-free” online idea.
  • Glossier (123 Lafayette St.): Showroom of the famed online beauty brands. The store has interactive mirrors and unique fragrance experience. 
  • Phluid Project (684 Broadway):  This store bills itself as “the world’s first gender-free store”. The location is close to NYU and Parson School of Design.
  • RealReal (80 Wooster St.): The online vintage brand in a boutique-like location with pull-out racks. The magic comes from “personalization of scheduled appointments”.
  • Rebecca Minkoff (96 Greene St): A retailer that cracked the code for Unified Commerce. Featured Concept Store for 2018.
  • Shake Shack (51 Astor Pl., East Village): Cashless kiosk restaurant serving roadside burgers, fries, shakes, beer, and more. The future of Quick Service Restaurants (QSR)
  • Showfields (11 Bond St. Soho): Advertised as “the most interesting store in the world”, the store aims to combine retail, art, and community. 4 floors of experience
  • Sonos (101 Greene St): The Sonos sound booths are designed to emulate rooms inside a home. Interactive & Fun!!! Featured concept store.
  • Vintage Twin (543 Broadway): A pop-up vintage shop. This chic company is unique because 10% of its proceeds go to charity.

Oculus Shopping Center: Unique Retail next to World Trade Center & 9/11 Memorial

The innovative shopping and transportation hub of Oculus Mall (Source Ronny Max)

The Oculus Mall (World Trade Center) is simply beautiful. Also if you’re an international visitor, the 9/11 memorial is an eye to what drives America.

Here are stores that are worth a visit:

  • Apple: A retailer that introduced smartphones and elegant designs to the world is now focused on social communities. There are 2 stores on each level. Always worth a visit.
  • Burberry:  If you loved Sting’s Englishmen in New York, you’d love this British Brand. Burberry was pivotal in experimenting with shopper personalization.
  • Casper: famed online brand for… selling mattress. Casper’s way to sell a bland product that people rarely buy is a case study in online and retail innovation. Concept: Showroom for the brand.

Ronny’s Pro Tip: In 2020, the success of a shopping center will depend on the 3 S’s – Social, Service & Safety

As shopping malls turn into Destination Experience Centers, we will see more experimental retail inside metro areas.

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More Stores to Explore in Brooklyn, NYC

  • A/D/O (29 Norman Ave): Creative space that is a hybrid retail shop, restaurant, workspace and start-up accelerator created by the automaker MINI.
  • Dekalb Market Hall (445 Albee Square West): A high end and styled grocery store with a localized assortment of food to take home, or eat inside.  
  • Narnia Vintage (672 Driggs Ave):  An apartment-turned-vintage store that sells clothing, textiles, and jewelry. Gorgeous backyard.
  • Whole Foods 365 (292 Ashland Place): Millennial-focused supermarket featuring low prices, and digital beer experience. Payment options include Scan & Go.
  • Wagman’s in Brooklyn Yards: Award winner grocer opened a new supermarket with food bars, cocktail bar, and outdoor seating

You Should Visit Walmart’s Retail Intelligent Lab in Levittown, Long Island

While Walmart’s newest concept store is outside NYC, you should suffer through the 1-hour ride to Levittown, Long Island.

Walmart deep dive into customer experience with Vision AI (Source: Walmart)

Walmart Intelligent Retail Lab in Long Island is plastered with vision-based AI. To Walmart’s credit, transparency is a key theme with the data center sitting behind a glass wall. With over 1500 cameras, the grocery is described as an Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL).

Ronny’s Pro Tip: Vision technology combines low-cost cameras, product imaging, and facial recognition, an irresistible proposition to retailers and brands. 2019 is the year Vision AI will dominate in tracking people behaviors in physical locations.

The Retail Stores of the Future are Already in New York City

Much has been said about the death of retail, but I like to think we’re in the midst of a Retail Renaissance.

A recent study by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) showed that opening a physical store increases online traffic by 36% for established retailers and 45% for emerging brands.

New York City in Geo-Spatial data visualization (Source: Uber Engineering)

Moreover, In-Store Purchase Funnel is about to be integrated seamlessly into Unified Commerce. The stores will become Experience Retail.

In addition to Interactive Technologies such as Smart Fitting Rooms, watch for more in-store immersive innovations in 3D Printing, Eye-Tracking, and Augmented Reality.

If you feel overwhelmed by the pace of change, you should remember one concept:

TECHNOLOGY CHANGES, PEOPLE DON’T

Innovative retail “Stores of the Future” are already in New York.


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P.S. Join the conversion and leave a comment below. Which store you think is the BEST retail store in NYC?


Ronny Max

I help retailers, brands, technology providers, high-tech startups, marketing agencies, venture capital, and research organizations on People Tracking Technologies, Customer's Journey Mapping, and In-Store Optimization (ISO)