Is this the future of retail? - Retail Council of Canada
Digital Retail & Technology

Is this the future of retail?

February 5, 2020

An array of retail experiences highlighted on New York City store tour

By Sean C. Tarry

Retail often offers us up interesting dichotomies. And there are few better places to experience them than New York City. From the grandiosity of Nordstrom to the ambition of Showfields, and virtually everything in between, the city and its retailers provide visitors with an entire spectrum of retail strategies and formats, and a unique lens into the state of the industry.

It’s the reason Retail Council of Canada (RCC) takes advantage of the opportunity each year during the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show to invite some of RCC’s attending members on a tour of the city and its retailers. The Retail Council of Canada NYC Tour of Stores – sponsored by Microsoft, DXC Technology and Visa, created and hosted by RCC Senior Retail advisor and The Voice of Retail podcast host Michael LeBlanc – provides members with a chance to experience New York City retail up close and personal and to take in the vast breadth of retail interpretation, each format and approach begging the question: Is this the future of retail?

The tour began at the DXC Retail Experience Center in the heart of Rockefeller Plaza, where guests were introduced to an interactive experience that highlighted an end-to-end retail journey from both the retailer and consumer perspectives. Showcasing integrated retail solutions built on Microsoft technology, the experience features the capabilities of mobile and social technologies, analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud to connect the entire retail business.

Next up, the tour travelled to all new Nordstrom Women’s Store on 57th Street, – the 320,000 square foot, seven story department store – to witness the retailer’s best-in-class customer service and experience-first approach. Guests also had the opportunity to see in action the store’s integrated omni-channel features which include self-return and online product pick-up, wayfinding kiosks that adjust to eight languages, and the BOPIS pick up area on the ground floor. And, of course, visitors to the location can also enjoy the fully licensed Shoe Bar and stop in for a cocktail while they shop for their Louboutins.

From there, the bus kept rolling, continuing on to Hudson Yards – an expansive shopping centre that opened in March, now featuring more than 100 retail stores, 30 restaurants and Manhattan’s first Neiman Marcus. The centre, first conceived in 1963, is the embodiment of the “Live, Work, Shop, Play” development mega-trend that is sweeping the world. And, with nearly 20 million visitors expected to grace the centre in 2020, the success and growth of Hudson Yards seems inevitable. While there, guests of the tour visited Forty Five Ten – a series of luxury boutiques that merges fashion, art and design while championing the new, the unconventional, the eclectic and the inspired; CAMP – an experiential toy store built to engage and inspire young families, with a canteen (café), an interactive space for play and shopping, and a theater for activities and programming for kids; B8ta – the preeminent place to discover, try, and buy the latest tech products you can’t find anywhere else; and LovePop – the Boston-based start-up and purveyor of greeting cards designed by architects, which also boasts a store format as unique as the products it sells.

The tour then moved on to the Starbucks Roastery – a 23,000 square foot shrine to coffee lovers that opened in early 2019. One of only five like it in the world, this Starbucks location is a multi-level retail experience and stage featuring a roasting facility and a licensed cocktail bar with an extensive merchandising assortment. It stands out as special among the Starbucks roster of store locations – so special, in fact, that the coffee retailer offers 45-minute guided tours – from the star of the green bean roaster to the special select coffee beverages.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, guests made one last stop at Showfields – a multi-story standalone building that was created to engage and inspire customers, appealing to their sense of discovery through revolving experiences with DTC brands and the communities shaping our future. Each floor is comprised of different brands with a common platform hosted by Showfields where visitors journey from floor-to-floor, room to room and meet brand advocates while taking in the experiential platforms that the retailer has set up.

A city with so much to offer, it’s impossible to pack all the retail sights and experiences that New York City has to offer into one tour. However, guests were certainly treated to a more than interesting cross-section of retail concepts and trends that are making waves today, with each retailer on the tour offering their interpretation of what the future of retail might be.

If you weren’t able to join us on our 2020 NYC Store Tour but find yourself in the city anytime soon, download the Tour guide and visit these remarkable retailers on your own to draw inspiration from their unique and ground-breaking retail strategies and formats. And, be sure and tune into The Voice of Retail podcast for an exclusive interview with Showfields CEO, Tal Zvi Nathanel.