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Exciting new chapters in the retail story

Few things upset me more than walking through a shopping precinct and seeing ugly, empty store fronts with “To Lease” signs hanging (typically quite poorly with duct tape) in them. Retail is a shifting landscape but I’ve often thought there must be a better way to use these underutilised spaces and keep a sense of vibrancy and sense of community alive and well. Why not make the space shopable until a permanent tenant moves in?

The bottom end of Newmarket has been languishing for some time and Parnell has also undulated in and out of this phase. Perhaps it’s time to take a leaf out of Westfield’s portfolio and create hoardings which lead us to believe something new and exciting will be coming soon. The window frontage could be leased to hold shopable decals (a la Tesco Korea’s underground shopping wall), disrupting the landscape in an engaging and relevant way.

Innovative shopping experiences can be created in any store front and we see the occasional examples of well thought through use of space, such as Sportsgirl grabbing some attention by smartly using their store exterior as a QR empowered portal while they refurbished.

But these examples pale when compared to some projects in New York City which are breathing life into empty spaces. The injection of innovation, vitality and dream-making potential brings happy tears to my hardened shopaholic eyes.

Shape-shifting storefronts

Vacant storefronts in an evolving precinct do little to create excitement and anticipation, even more so when there are 200 empty, as in the Lower East Side. Enter a smart bugger who believed the empty stores could be utilised for the benefit of the community and emerging businesses.

miLES (Made in the Lower East Side) created a Store Transformer that can change any store front into a vibrant pop-up community hub. Spaces literally evolve from a shared working space to a snack bar, trendy boutique to class room in a matter of weeks.

Eye opening and inspiring.

Step into the Story

Now let’s venture to 144 Tenth Ave (at 19th Street) in Manhattan’s Chelsea district where Story is redefining the shopping experience by developing a store which undergoes complete reinvention every 4-6 weeks. The innovators responsible for this stroke of genius sum up their idea, “STORY has the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store.” I’m already hooked.

Offering an immersive, 360-degree experience, Story is pioneering a new way to shop and experience brands. Transactional storytelling with a fresh crop of merchandise every month captures your attention through experience, entertainment, surprise and delight. Delight by the bucket load.

Themes have included Love, Colour, His, New York, Wellness and, should you be lucky enough to be visiting NYC any time soon, the current story is Home for the Holidays.

Story is a physical manifestation of content storytelling and transaction retailing. In other words, a thing of beauty and wonder.

Retail with heart

Retailers in this hemisphere need to imagine bricks and mortar stores that are new, vibrant and exciting because as shoppers we yearn for something different, we are desperately seeking to fall in love with a new retail experience.

The New York concepts recognise the part that retail plays in our personal and community landscapes; the something that individual shoppers want as part of “my network”.

Local industry and emerging businesses also benefit when spaces can be shared in a way that fosters growth and collaboration.

I envy the foresight and creative minds of these entrepreneurial Manhattanites but I’m confident of hatching a plan to drink in these retail experiences in person again next year.

And if Santa drops some flights into my stocking this Christmas, start spreading the news. I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it….

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