STORE SPACES

Now Trending: Eight clicks-to-bricks retailers to keep an eye on

BY Marianne Wilson

Digitally native retailers are infusing the retail industry with something it can always use: new blood. Here are eight interesting newcomers to the physical space:

Away

“Smart” luggage is Away’s calling card. The fast-growing start- up brand specializes in suitcases that combine external USB ports for phone charging with a sleek design and other features to help take the stress out of traveling. With stores in Manhattan and Los Angeles, Away has more locations in the pipeline.

Brilliant Earth

The ethically sourced bridal and new jewelry retailer is expanding in brick-and-mortar, with a showroom format designed to provide a high-touch, personalized experience for every customer. The brand donates 5% of its profits to help communities impacted by the jewelry trade build a brighter future.

Eloquii

Following a successful pop- up run at The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, the plus-size fashion brand just opened its first permanent space at the same center. The stylish outpost, which blends offline and online retail, is just the beginning. Eloquii expects to open upwards of 40 stores during the next three to four years.

Everlane

This socially conscious clothing brand, whose promise of “radical transparency” has won it a devoted following, is set to open its first freestanding store in its San Francisco hometown. The company currently operates a showroom, the Everlane Lab, on the ground floor of its headquarters, and has also done pop-ups. Everlane discloses how much it costs to make each item, breaking it down by materials, labor, duties and transport, and also reveals its markup. Expect its store to reflect the minimalistic style of the items (for men and women) on display.

Indochino

The made-to-measure menswear brand is on a roll, doubling its U.S. store count from five to 10 this year, along with opening three new stores in Canada. The goal is to open 100 locations during the next five years. Shoppers at Indochino are paired with a “style guide” who helps them design a one-of-a-kind suit or shirt. The associates take shoppers through a variety of personalization options.

The RealReal

The leader in online secondhand luxury goods is opening an 8,000-sq.-ft. store in Manhattan. The brand stands out in the resale market due to its rigorous authentication process, which it uses to weed out fake luxury goods and authenticate the price of its goods.

ThredUp

ThredUp, which just opened a location at Tanger Outlets in San Marcos, Texas, and has four more in the works, doesn’t look or feel like a typical thrift store. It has a clean, modern look with a minimalist aesthetic and sells secondhand fashions of the latest brands at a deep discount. The store is powered by proprietary technology and a massive amount of online customer data, with the inventory reflecting the items that are trending in each store’s locale.

Untuckit

Known for its signature shirts designed to be worn untucked, Untuckit recently opened its sixth store, in Dallas. Upcoming locations include Mall of America and King of Prussia Mall. The brand started out as a menswear retailer, but has added women’s shirts and tops to its mix. It reportedly plans to open 100 stores over the next five years.

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STORE SPACES

Mattress start-up doubles down on Amazon relationship for store success

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon is extending its brick-and-mortar brand exposure, once again — albeit in an unconventional way.

Mattress retailer Tuft & Needle will open its newest store in October, in Seattle. And the self-funded specialty retailer is relying on Amazon’s technology and services to drive its success, according to ReCode.

Tuft & Needle already has 25% of its sales filtering through Amazon. To keep up the momentum, the startup is outfitting its newest location with other Amazon-branded solutions, including tablets where customers can read product reviews found on Amazon; Alexa-powered Echo devices that answer customer questions, and QR codes that enable one-click purchasing through the Amazon app, the report said.

Initially, customers who order at the new Seattle store will receive one-day shipping through Amazon Prime, if they are members. Looking ahead, the company also hopes to integrate two-hour deliveries through Amazon’s Prime Now service, the report said.

Tuft & Needle operates three other locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and San Francisco. The retailer tested two-hour Prime delivery in its Phoenix location, a move that not only boosted sales by 50%, but also prompted Tuft & Needle to offer two-hour Prime delivery in all three locations, according to Mashable.

Daehee Park, Tuft & Needle’s co-founder said in ReCode’s report, “We’ve had a lot of internal debate about this since the beginning: The approach to resist Amazon as a force and see how we can go head-to-head against it. But where we’re at right now, we’ve decided why not just embrace them. It is the future of retail and e-commerce. We focus on what we’re good at, and plug in Amazon technology for the rest.”

Tuft & Needle is joining a growing list of brands, such as Nike and Sears, that recently decided to join forces with Amazon rather than compete with the online retailing giant. It is a strategic move that benefits both Amazon and Tuft & Needle.

Besides giving the mattress retailer a leg up on its primary competitors which also sell through Amazon’s Launchpad, the joint effort will help Amazon get a stronger hold in the home furniture category, Mashable said.

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One of the world’s fastest-growing character brands opens Times Square flagship

BY Marianne Wilson

An Asian brand whose characters were originally created for use as emoticons on a mobile messenger app has opened its first store in North America.

Line Friends, whose characters include whimsical-looking bears, ducks, bunnies and more, has opened a 4,628-sq.-ft. flagship in Manhattan's Times Square as part of the company's global expansion efforts. It currently operates 84 locations in 11 countries around the globe.

Line Friends is owned by Japanese social media giant Line Corp., whose global messenger app provides free messaging, along with video and phone calls. It is used in more than 230 countries and offers free one-to-one and group messaging, along with voice and video calls. The app counts 200 million active worldwide users. Line Friends features 11 characters that were originally created for use as stickers (or emoticons) on the app. It creates a wide variety of products, including dolls and stuffed animals, based on the signature characters.

Line Friends' Times Square outpost was conceived as a character merchandise store and entertainment space. Themed rooms bring out the unique personalities of the brand's main characters, and "Mega Brown," an enormous version of Line's signature bear, sits in the middle of the space. The store offers more than 440 character-branded items for sale, including items exclusive to the New York store, as well as a series of Scandinavian-style collaborations.

"The opening of our New York flagship store commemorates the one-year anniversary of our parent company's [Line Corp.] listing on the New York Stock Exchange, and paves the way for the official start of the next phase of Line Friends' global expansion," stated Line Friends. "We see particular significance in the fact that characters which got their start in digital media, not cinema or TV, are making such a bold entrance into New York City, the world's leader in cultural trends."

In celebration of the store's opening, a large-scale outdoor promotion using Times Square's LED screens filled the surrounding area with the full range of Line characters. In addition to the outdoor advertisements, digital signage on the store's exterior features branded content along with the company's newest products.

Line Friends, which ran a pop-up store in New York City in December 2014.

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