MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Quick-change Manhattan retailer Story partnering with health insurance giant

BY Marianne Wilson

Story, the 2,000-sq.-ft. Manhattan store that changes its theme, interior design and product mix every four to eight weeks, is teaming up with health services provide Cigna for its next iteration.

The retailer will unveil its “Feel Good” concept on Tuesday, Jan. 19. The installation will be open through Feb. 28, and customers will be able to participate in a variety of classes and panel discussions focusing on health and wellness, in addition to shopping for the latest trends in healthy living.

The concept will leverage Cigna's mind/body health and fitness expertise, and offer over 20 events, featuring Cigna coaches from around the country and NYC fitness gurus to help lead panel discussions and fitness classes.

The collaboration marks a first for Cigna and will leverage its position as a healthcare partner through an immersive retail experience, grounded in expertise from Cigna's health engagement and improvement initiatives.

“The partnership is truly groundbreaking in scope,” said Story founder Rachel Shechtman. “Our intention was to create a 360-degree experience around a topic that’s more important than ever: taking control of one’s health.”

Consumers will have the opportunity to experience some of the latest technologies offered in health and wellness, including the debut of the Cigna Virtual Relaxation Pod, an innovative virtual reality experience using Oculus technology. Visitors will be transported to one of three VR environments, accompanied by expert guided meditation to promote mindfulness.

“Cigna is all about developing effective ways to help people achieve healthier, more secure lives,” said Cigna chief marketing officer, Lisa Bacus. “Story provides a wonderful platform to help us learn and understand your interests, preferences and health, so that we may meet you where you are and help get you to where you want to be.”

Merchandise has been categorized by section and selected to support the discovery of emerging technologies, brands, and health solutions. The “Good Plan” section, for example, feature items such as a Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitor, a connected watch and a sonic-powered silicone toothbrush. Another section, “Good Eats, will feature healthy items selected by an online artisan marketplace.

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FINANCE

Chico’s sells Boston Proper

BY Marianne Wilson

Chico’s FAS has sold its Boston Proper women’s apparel business to a Los Angeles-based, consumer-focused private equity firm.

Brentwood Associates, whose portfolio includes J. McLaughlin and Soft Surroundings, announced Tuesday it has acquired the women’s apparel brand. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We see tremendous opportunity in Boston Proper’s direct-to-consumer channels, as the focus shifts back towards the brand’s unique customer value proposition," said Roger Goddu, partner with Brentwood Associates.

Brentwood said it will work with existing Boston Proper ]management to refocus on “building a unique and compelling direct-to-consumer lifestyle brand through Boston Proper’s print, digital and social channels.”

“We will reignite the passion around the brand, strengthen the quality of our service and further enhance the personal relationships that drive our business,” said Boston Proper president and chief merchandising officer Sheryl Clark.

Chico’s purchased Boston Proper in 2011 and, in 2013, extended the catalog and online brand into the brick-and-mortar space. The stores, however, failed to perform to expectations. In August 2015, the retailer announced it was closing all 20 Boston Proper stores.

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Insights

Now Trending: Crea(c)tivity in the Urban Core

BY Jerry Hoffman

“Now Trending” is an exclusive online series to chainstoreage.com, featuring trending topics that impact the retail real estate landscape.

As more of my work brings me into contact with mixed-use developments in urban core markets, it’s clear to me that there are some important changes taking place – changes that are fueling the ongoing mixed-use renaissance in many cities.

In the past I’ve discussed the growing popularity of office-sharing and co-working spaces, which are both a driver for and a consequence of vibrant new mixed-use urban environments. Increasingly prominent and important features on this evolving urban landscape are the new breed of creative companies taking up urban core addresses–often rehabilitating or redeveloping former warehouse or industrial spaces in the process.

Google’s new office building in what was once the Fulton Market Cold Storage building in West Loop Chicago is a prime example. In downtown Phoenix, home-grown tech companies are transforming warehouse space and contributing to an increasingly vibrant and vital downtown environment. These examples of adaptive reuse are an important element in today’s urban habitat, and their presence has positive consequences for surrounding retail, restaurants and hospitality.

Google moving into the ten-story 1K Fulton building in Chicago’s Fulton Market District is a textbook case of this dynamic in action. The transformation of the former Fulton Market Cold Storage building has not only made headlines and captured the imagination of area residents, but it has helped make the surrounding neighborhood one of the city’s most active and appealing new addresses. Since developer Sterling Bay bought the building in 2011, a new Chicago Transit Authority train stop at Morgan and Lake streets has opened, and the area has gained both momentum and acquired a certain cachet. The Soho House hotel/club on Green Street is another example from the same area. The Soho House opened in 2014 in a building that once housed a rubber belt factory.

In Phoenix, WebPT (a Web-based electronic medical records company) and Denver-based Galvanize (a private company that builds tech campuses for software coding and provides co-working space to support startups, software engineers and other similar ventures) are among the newcomers that are helping to transform the Phoenix Warehouse District. The area, just off of downtown, is emerging as a center of tech innovation and a desirable destination for startups/entrepreneurs.

For Phoenix, the Warehouse District is part of an evolving urban habitat that includes major investments in downtown campuses by Arizona State University and the University of Arizona; and a relatively new light rail system that has ridership counts far exceeding projections. Along with these institutional anchors and civic infrastructure, creative companies occupying revitalized and refurbished spaces in the heart of the city are helping to create the demand to support the retail, restaurants, hotels and downtown lifestyle options in Phoenix. In Phoenix’s mixed-use high-rise CityScape, that environment is a hospitable one for names like Urban Outfitters, Jos. A Banks, Charming Charlie; Lucky Strike; Orangetheory Fitness and EoS Fitness; The Corner, The Arrogant Butcher, Fuego; Hotel Palomar by Kimpton; and the CityScape Residences (above the Hotel Palomar).

In addition to supporting more downtown retail, innovative new companies and creative new urban office spaces are also helping to absorb new residential units that are being built. In Phoenix, nearly 1,900 new residential units (rental and for-sale) will come onto the market in 2016. Another 1,400 new residential units are in pre-development phase or have been proposed through 2018.

In Phoenix, this combination of employment activity – tech startups in the Warehouse district, a solid financial services sector, city and county government agencies, and new downtown residences – is helping to support existing retail and hospitality; and encouraging investment in and development of new retail, restaurant, residential, office, hotel, academic and urban amenities.

In the same way that co-working/office sharing is a valuable addition to traditional urban office space, because it tends to blend and support different types of professionals and a diverse blend of businesses, the influx of creative new companies and concepts in cool new urban spaces is broadening the urban demographic base and attracting a more differentiated blend of retail and restaurant. It’s not just about who these businesses hire, but the attraction of those workers to the downtown/urban lifestyle.

This is the dynamic at play in urban centers around the country: new office and professional concepts supporting new retail models and residential opportunities. The adaptive reuse of spaces like stockyards, warehouses and industrial/manufacturing facilities adds creative flair and heightens the appeal for businesses, employees and communities alike.

There is no doubt that creative new urban workspaces support new urban mixed-use opportunities. I suppose the big question is whether the influx of these creative new workplaces is a response to growing urban demand, or whether these businesses and new office spaces are creating a significant portion of that demand. I’m guessing it goes both ways, and serves as a kind of self reinforcing cycle that is reinvigorating urban mixed use in cities around the country. It’s going to be fascinating to watch it play out in the years ahead.


Jerry Hoffman, president and CEO of Hoffman Strategy Group, brings 30 years of economic and market analysis that provides insights for all pieces of mixed-use projects. Core project specialties include urban retail corridors, infill, and suburban mixed-use as well as shopping center repurposing and redevelopment, entertainment district development, university-led development, and adaptive reuse of property. To learn more, visit http://hoffmanstrategygroup.com or connect with Jerry at [email protected].

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