Innovative retail concept in store expansion mode
A tech-savvy retailer with an unusual business model is expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint nationally.
b8ta announced plans to open four new stores, designed by Gensler, with locations in San Francisco, San Jose, Calif. (Santana Row), Houston (Galleria), and New York City. The expansion, which brings the company's total store count to nine, kicks off with the opening of a store in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood on Sept. 29.
b8ta stores are designed to give shoppers a hands-on demonstration of cutting-edge tech products and gadgets — most of them from start-up companies that lack the resources and/or know-how for entering traditional retail channels. Indeed, most of the featured companies (or “makers” in b8ta speak) sell products directly on their websites or through crowd funding campaigns. Each store feature a mix of more than 100 products, and customers are encouraged to see, touch and try out the products.
b8ta is different than the traditional retail model in that the company makes its money essentially by leasing space in its stores to the product makers/manufacturers. Proceeds of all in-store sales go directly to the makers themselves.
Data powers the entire enterprise and b8ta’s inventory changes month-to-month based on performance, offering frequent opportunities for new makers — and novel experiences for customers. The product makers have access to detailed data and the ability to test and control the experience of their product in store.
b8ta opened its first store in late 2015, in California. The company was founded by Vibhu Norby (CEO), William Mintun (COO), and Phillip Raub (CMO).
“In December 2015, we opened our first b8ta store in Palo Alto to prove that retail wasn’t dying because consumers had lost interest in shopping, but because the makers behind the best products had lost interest in working with retailers," said Norby. "After opening our first five stores, filling them with hundreds of unique products, and engaging 25,000+ customers a month, we’ve proven our thesis. In the next few months, we’re extending our reach coast to coast, allowing our amazing makers to meet their customers across the country.”
b8ta has also launched its e-commerce platform, giving customers the opportunity to purchase products online from any of the store locations. The company’s growth has been fueled by a $19.5 million funding round led by Khosla Ventures, Fifth Wall Ventures, and TriplePoint Capital with participation from Comcast Ventures and national mall operator Macerich.
Microsoft to plant retail flag in London
Microsoft will open its third flagship location, which will also be the company's first retail store in London.
The company announced plans to open a flagship on Regent Street at Oxford Circus. The location, which in the heart of the city's retail district, is just down the road from an Apple flagship.
"We couldn’t be happier to be opening a flagship store in the heart of central London at Oxford Circus, where two of the world’s most iconic shopping streets meet," said Cindy Rose, head of Microsoft in the U.K. and the company's partner throughout the location selection process. "This will be so much more than just a great place to experience all that is possible with Microsoft, but a real hub for the community where we’ll be bringing to life our passion for helping people explore their creativity through an ambitious program of workshops and training along with moments that work to unite the community.”
Microsoft did not say when the store would open or reveal any design details. But similar to the company's other stores, it's expected that the London outpost will showcase Microsoft's hardware and software offerings, allowing for hands-on experiences by customers, and host free workshops and other events.
Currently, the tech giant operates approximately 100 mostly mall-based stores, with a flagship in New York City and Sydney, Australia.
Uniqlo to debut new specialty store concept
Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo is going all out for denim in Los Angeles.
The company, part of Fast Retailing Group, will open a special store dedicated to denim in the Arts District of Los Angeles this fall/winter. The new "denim concept" shop will be Uniqlo's 47th location in the U.S., and ninth in the L.A. region following the opening at Westfield Santa Anita mall earlier in September.
The denim store will take its inspiration from Uniqlo's new Jeans Innovation Center, a sustainable R&D facility located in Los Angeles. It will highlight Japanese craftsmanship and the fabrics that go into the development of the brand's jeans.
Every element of the shop will be an homage to denim and the L.A. community. Upon entering, customers will be introduced to the brand’s heritage in Japanese textile innovation, showcasing the research and development that comes from parent company Fast Retailing’s Jeans Innovation Center through visuals and prototypes.
The latter part of the store will feature an area for customers to test, try and shop the full range of Uniqlo's denim offerings. Each fit will be highlighted within mini-concept areas styled with complementary Uniqlo apparel, including T-shirt collaborations, sweaters, blouses and outerwear. Included in the lineup will be product from L.A. denim brand, J Brand, which is also a part of Fast Retailing Group.