In The Market

Retail Refreshed

How to Stand Out as Brick-and-Mortar in a Digital World.

Clockwise from top left: Nordstrom (NYC), Evo (Portland), Ludwig Beck (Munich), Buffalo Exchange (Portland), Greene Street (Princeton), Ludwig Beck (Munich).

From Portland, Oregon to Princeton, New Jersey and from Manhattan to Munich, brick-and mortar-storeowners are re-thinking how to attract and engage today’s shoppers. Whether it’s a new spin on old-school concepts or bridging the gap between shopping and socializing, the savvy retailers represented here are succeeding with fresh ideas tailored to fit a consumer mindset both contemporary and conventional.  

Resale Revolution

The reasons range from the ability to buy brands they normally can’t afford, or the fun factor of hunting for a unique item, or an increased desire to buy more responsibly, but the bottom line is nine million more people bought second hand clothes in 2017 than in 2016 and strong growth in this category is projected to continue in years to come. According to First Research, there are combined more than 25,000 resale, consignment shops and not for profit resale shops in the U.S, and reports an estimated resale industry in U.S. of $17.5B.

Buffalo Exchange, based in Tucson, AZ began selling used jeans and flannel shirts in 1974, and now has 50 locations across the country and wears its authenticity well. A little dingy around the edges and crammed with a kooky assortment of apparel, shoes, and accessories, bargains abound at the Portland store. Locally-based brands are easy pickings; Sorel hiking boots, Nike and Columbia jackets, vintage Patagonia apparel, and all manner of backpack styles add to the store’s regional flavor.  

Greene Street Consignment has grown from a single, family-owned consignment shop in Main Line Philly, to now 10 locations in the greater Philadelphia/New Jersey area. Nassau Street is a main shopping drag located adjacent to Princeton University and makes an ideal setting for Green Street Consignment. Students, young moms with strollers, professors on their lunch hour and locals of all ages are likely not to leave empty handed. A “Designer Display” as you enter the clean, brightly lighted store sets the scene and a spiffed up consignment image carries throughout from a nicely merchandised men’s section to racks of top-notch premium brand denim for women.

Outdoor Opportunities

Globetrotter is appealing on multiple levels. Literally, the Munich store features 1000 different brands spread across four floors that include a rain chamber for testing outerwear, a climbing wall and a paddle pool. Boutique shops within the store (Arc’teryx, Icebreaker, Fjallraven and Hestra) create cozy corners for shopping. Customers can take advantage of Globetrotters’ extensive travel department, as there is space to sit, water to sip from an eco-friendly water station, and leisurely browse travel guides and maps. A sophisticated approach to merchandising and a Zen-like atmosphere offers a welcome relief from Munich’s urban bustle.

Evo’s Portland, Oregon location alone makes for a great story. (Evo also has locations in Denver, Seattle, Whistler and Salt Lake City.) Housed in the historic 120-year-old former Salvation Army headquarters in the SE district of Portland, the Rose City location of this action sports specialist also offers several other cool talking points: an exceptional bike presence including onsite servicing, a surf meets ski meets skate mash up culture that allows for new and unusual brands on display, and an art gallery space. Lots of specialty outdoor stores promote “community” but it’s the real deal at Evo. The store hosts events and gatherings year round, however, even on a sleepy Monday afternoon visit, handfuls of customers were content to linger chatting amongst them self and the store associates.

Softgoods brands of note: T-shirts by Richer Poorer and Mollusk Hemp, Vissla hoodies, outerwear from Burton, Nikita, and 686, and Polyanna and Neff knit beanies.

Department Store Demise – NOT!

Call it crazy, but Nordstrom’s new flagship store in Manhattan has fast become a go-to destination. Its opening in October garnered significant buzz in a city that has seen beloved department stores shutter – Lord & Taylor last Spring and Barney’s in December are two recent examples. What’s the appeal? The new Nordstrom store is not on Fifth Avenue, the traditional department store mecca, and even long time New Yorkers will likely enjoy trekking to a different locale to shop. This makes the store visit something of an adventure. Then there are the Mobile Charging Station and the Express Service department – two of several au courant features — catering to today’s on-the-go shopper. Plus the Shoe Bar where visitors can sip a martini while trying on a pair of Sam Edelman boots. Not to mention a visually beautiful store with exceptional customer service. No Nordstrom card on hand? No problem. Want the purchase sent to Charlotte for pick up? No problem. Exchange if the item doesn’t fit? No problem. Sold!

The German retailer Ludwig Beck levels up the lowly “notions” category that once was standard issue retail fare, to a DIY haven for handcrafts. Employees of the lively full service Haberdashery & Wool department advise on all topics, with products ranging from custom zippers and buttons to embroidery needles. There is a variety of wool available and an extensive range of sewing thread. Even if textiles are not your thing, the colorful displays and experiencing how Ludwig Beck puts a progressive spin on heritage lifestyle is reason enough to stop in. A key takeaway here is millennial interest in this category; “sewists” is a new term for sewing enthusiasts, for example, following on the heels of “makers” for those who enjoy crafts. Established fabric and crafting retailer, Joann recently launched a Creator Studio concept store near corporate headquarter in Columbus, OH and H&M has started selling “repair kits.” Ludwig Beck showcases a trend that translates easily stateside.