STORY: Dramatically remodeling retail.
“A Startup Store has the point of view of a magazine, but it changes like a gallery and it sells things like a store” – Rachel Shechtman, Founder of STORY.
This week, as part of the OpenCo conference that allows anyone from investors, marketers, job seekers, and curious neighbors to attend sessions at some of the most innovative companies in New York City, I was able to visit STORY. The store, located on 10th Avenue, right next to the High Line, is a retail space that changes all of its merchandise, design, fixtures and products around a different story-based theme every four to six weeks.
This month’s story was all about design. Designer Anna Karlin used the STORY space and storefront as her medium to explore the different aspects of design and to start a conversation on what is design. The store featured everything from gold Pantone iPhone cases to an on-site Barista Bot, courtesy of GE, that presents visitors with a free cup of illycaffè, complete with laser etching on the foam.
What makes STORY so innovative is that is approaching retail and merchandising in an entirely new way – combining message, marketing and products in one curated collection that never gets stale due to its changing nature. Wired Magazine included STORY in its discussion of elastic environments and how space can be better utilized and presented for the consumer that is tired of the standard warehouse store layout.
One of the biggest business problems with a model like this is that the store has to shut down for 4-10 days every month. This means nothing gets sold during that time, which for a store in Manhattan, could be a death sentence. Rachel Shechtman decided that to work around this, she would not make the store entirely dependent on profits from the products themselves. Instead, she also partners with various corporations that fit each month’s theme as sponsors (similar to way that magazines have editorials – the products, and ads – the sponsors). The sponsorships always make sense with the story that she is telling. For the story on color, Rachel worked with Benjamin Moore Paint, who were also able to bring their expertise on color into the conversation.
Another key component of STORY is actually starting discussions among its community about the current theme. STORY hosts events almost every week featuring speakers, product launches and workshops that anyone can attend. The goal is to start a dialogue around these themes and make shopping or exploring new products a collaborative and inclusive process, not simply a task to cross off your to do list.
As people have less time, they want more from their experiences. STORY is experimenting with different ways of bringing the most rewarding experiences to their customers. While doing so, they are becoming not just a destination but a resource for their visitors – to learn new skills, engage with new people and things and to come together in a collaborative and inquisitive shopping experience. I think other retailers are going to start catching on and incorporating this model into a more traditional store environment, which will make the process of shopping more rewarding on a larger scale.