REAL ESTATE

Settlement: Hollister to remove steps from entrances

BY Marianne Wilson

Teen apparel retailer Hollister will remove the steps from its store entrances following a six-year court battle.

The company, owned by Abercrombie & Fitch Co., has agreed to eliminate the steps that part of the exterior design of many of its stores in order to make the doorways wheelchair accessible, the Associated Press reported. The change is part of a settlement approved by a federal judge.

A lawsuit, filed in 2009 by the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, alleged that that Hollister violated law by limiting wheelchair users to side entrances.

Hollister had already started converting many of its storefronts before the settlement was finalized, saying it also has spent $11 million on additional accessibility measures, the AP reported.

The steps were part of Hollister’s previous beach house store design, More recently, the chain has rolled out a sleeker, minimal look, without steps at the entrance.

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REAL ESTATE

Wawa ready for the Pope in Philadelphia; touts new design

BY Marianne Wilson

Wawa managed to beat the clock in Philadelphia, opening a flagship location just in time for the Pope’s visit.

The convenience store operator opened the 4,000-sq.-ft. store nearly two months ahead of schedule, and in time for the crowds in town to see Pope Francis.

The new Wawa features an entirely new store design, colors, graphics and other one-of-a-kind features. It was designed in collaboration with Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio, and Cuhaci and Peterson, locally based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

Highlights of the new store include:

• Large corner entrance with bronze canopy;

• In-door bar seating along the windows — the first Wawa store to feature the option;

• Upscale cabinetry, counter tops, and lighting; and

• Design features such as floor-to-ceiling glass, and special digital signs that support Wawa’s offerings and community commitment.

“During this significant occasion when the spotlight is on Philadelphia as the World Meeting of Families convenes and culminates with the visit of Pope Francis, we couldn’t be more excited to open our flagship Philadelphia store. It truly is a fitting symbol of our commitment to serving our friends and neighbors and to continuing to invest in our hometown,” said Chris Gheysens, president and CEO, Wawa, which operates more than 700 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.

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REAL ESTATE

Getting Physical

BY Marianne Wilson

The emphasis on omnichannel commerce has largely laid to rest (at least for now) the debate of online versus offline. Indeed, A.T. Kearney put it best in the title of a recent study, “On Solid Ground: Brick and Mortar is the Foundation of Omnichannel Retailing.”

Whether a space used for showrooming, webrooming, a pick up and return venue for online orders or plain old shopping, the physical store plays a crucial role in the shopper’s journey. And as A.T. Kearney noted in its study: It’s been proven that having multiple channels is good for business.”

That idea has been taken to heart by savvy pure-play online retailers who, increasingly, are adding to their virtual stake by experimenting with — and, in some cases, growing — an offline presence. Here is an update on retailers who have made the plunge:

Fabletics

The online activewear and accessories brand, co-founded by actress Kate Hudson and owned by JustFab Inc., is positioned in the fast-growing “athleisure” market.

Launched in 2013, Fabletics at press time was making its brick-and-mortar debut, at Bridgewater Commons, Bridgewater New Jersey, and The Mall in Columbia, Columbia, Maryland. Another three stores are in the works, at Christiana Mall, Wilmington, Delaware; Saint Louis Galleria, St. Louis; and Kenwood Towne Centre, Cincinnati. (All the locations are in malls owed by General Growth Properties,

“More and more, we are seeing pure-play retailers like Fabletics see the value of adding physical locations to enhance sales and brand visibility,” stated Alan Barocas, senior executive VP of leasing, GGP. “In fact, 90 percent of all U.S. retail sales occur at physical stores, and when a pure-play retailer opens a physical store, they see online sales increase three to five times in the same trade area.”

Fabletics’s physical outposts are designed to blend online and offline components, offering extensive assortment, mobile point-of-sale, free shipping for out-of-stock items, and buy online and pick-up in store (BOPUS).

In addition, shoppers can access a virtual shopping cart while in the stores so that they can complete purchases online after their store visit. And they can also can use the brand’s online site to book in-store fittings.

Blue Nile

In opening its first freestanding physical space, fine jewelry and diamond retailer Blue Nile opted to take a showroom (or what the company calls “Webroom”) strategy.

The 325-sq.-ft. store, at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York, is intended to give shoppers the opportunity to see and experience the company’s products in person — before purchasing the items online. More than 400 styles are featured on site. Associates use iPads to show customers Blue Nile’s complete assortment and assist them with their selection.

Merchandise can be picked up at the store, which also provides free cleanings and repair.

“Blue Nile’s customers already have the freedom to shop in their own way – via PC, tablet, and phone – and now in the New York-area, they can do so in a physical environment,” a Blue Nile spokesperson told Chain Store Age. “However, unlike at most traditional jewelers, consumers will have the advantage of online prices, non-commissioned advice, a huge selection, and great quality.”

Blue Nile hired a leading retail design firm — Southfield, Michigan-based JGA — to design the space, which has an inviting, contemporary look. High-tech flourishes, including an illuminated back wall, are balanced by warm and evocative graphics and black and white photography.

BaubleBar


Launched in 2011 and the brainchild of two former investment bankers with Harvard MBAs, the fast-fashion jewelry brand has opened its first permanent brick-and-mortar location, a 1,200-sq.-ft. shop at Roosevelt Field Mall, in Garden City, New York.

BaubleBar, known for its on-trend but affordable jewelry, has previously tested the waters of offline retail with pop-up shops. It also sells a limited selection of goods at Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Anthropologie stores.

The new BaubleBar shop is colorful and stylish, and stocked with a wide array of trinkets. It features a “selfie station” where customers can take photos of themselves bejeweled and a statement wall to encourage layering. Similar to the retailer’s online store, the product offering up updated frequently based on real-time shopping data.

Birchbox

The five-year-old online beauty subscription retailer is plunging deeper into brick-and-mortar retailing, and has made clear that expanding its offline footprint is a strategic priority for the next phase of the business. With one physical store (a two-level beauty lifestyle emporium in Manhattan’s SoHo, opened in 2014), Birchbox plans to open two additional permanent stores in 2016, including one dedicated to men’s products under the banner of Birchbox Man. And this past summer, it tested in-store beauty counters in select Gap stores.

In a novel twist, Birchbox will decide where to locate its two new stores by crowdsourcing customer votes for where to place pop-ups in three U.S. cities. The two best-performing pop-ups will get the permanent physical stores.

“We're obsessed with our subscribers and they're constantly asking for Birchbox to come to their cities, so we're listening and letting them guide the next phase of our offline retail strategy," said Katia Beauchamp, cofounder and CEO of Birchbox. "Our offline customers have a higher lifetime value with us online, so for us, this isn't just another cute pop-up — it's a serious step towards further retail expansion and a way for us to test the waters in new markets."

Sole Society

Women’s footwear and accessories online retailer Sole Society chose Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica. California, to make its brick-and-mortar debut. Known for its on-trend styles and affordable prices, the brand is showcasing its full product line of footwear, handbags, jewelry, scarves and hats in the 2,250-sq.-ft. space.

The store, which has a streamlined interior, combines offline elements with digital ones, and has an in-store kiosk that acts as a virtual concierge — offering customers the option to send gifts or mail their purchases home when traveling. It also gives customers the ability to search Sole Society's full assortment and inventory, shop for sold out styles or sizes and have their purchases delivered within 24-48 hours in the Southern California area.

In addition to its own branded goods, Sole Society’s physical outpost features a revolving curated collection of apparel, home and beauty offerings from like-minded brands and local designers.

Rent the Runway

The online rental company, which rents designer dresses, pantsuits and accessories, recently opened its fourth freestanding store — in Chicago — and more are in the works. It has announced plans to open a network of stores across 15 key markets, along with a distribution center on the West Coast.

In addition to growing its retail base, Rent the Runway has also added new revenue streams. It launched a subscription service, called Unlimited, last year that, for $99 per month, allows subscribers to rent three items at one time and keep them for as long they want. After the customer sends the item back, she can select her next shipment.

Rent the Runway’s 2,940-sq.-ft. Chicago location is its most stylish-looking to date, with luxe dressing rooms and a “Selfie Mirror” that takes photos from different angles and e-mails them to the shopper for future reference.

Similar to the brand’s other stores, the shop offers one-on-one sessions with stylists and same-day rentals. Most customers book an appointment. But walk-ins are also welcome and a customer can leave with a dress the same day. The cost of renting depends on the item — and the featured designer. Plus-sizes are also available.

The Chicago outpost is the company’s first to serve as a platform for local female entrepreneurs to promote their businesses. It will host talks with Chicago businesswomen and post their stories on the Rent the Runway website, which claims some five million women.

NYX Professional Makeup

A playground for beauty junkies who love to have fun with makeup. That’s how cosmetics marketer NYX Professional Makeup describes its first physical outpost.

The company has announced five locations, with the first set to open on October 2. The store, at Westfield Santa Anita Mall, Arcadia, California, will carry the brand’s exclusive line of cosmetic products and celebrate makeup artistry via an interactive approach that combines digital technology with a hands-on, self-learning environment.

The space will feature an interactive “NYX Beauty Bar,” a digital community wall; digital imagery and social media content will be used throughout. Select locations will host meet-ups and in-store events with Instagram and YouTube beauty “influencers.”

Along with its initial store in Arcadia, first NYX Professional Makeup announced four additional locations, all in California: Del Amo Fashion Center, Torrance; Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga; Westfield Valley Fair, Santa Clara; and Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek.

ModCloth

Best known for its retro-inspired indie fashions, the online player entered the physical space this past summer with a 2,250-sq.ft. pop-up near San Francisco headquarters.

The space was designed to serve as a test for permanent stores, and as a showcase for the company’s first-ever house label. Based on its performance, ModCloth reportedly will be looking at when and where to open its first permanent location come 2016.

The offline initiative comes under new leadership. In January, Matt Kaness, formerly chief strategy officer for Urban Outfitters Inc., joined ModCloth as CEO after co-founder Eric Koger stepped down. (Koger’s wife and ModCloth co-founder, Susan Koger, remains chief creative officer.)


Warby Parker


The company that remains the golden standard for clicks to bricks continues to expand its physical presence. Currently, it has 13 freestanding stores, with plans to open several more by yearend, including locations in Scottsdale and San Diego.

The stores combine the ease of online ordering with the fun and serendipity of real-life shopping. No cookie cutter when it comes to store design, the brand has a knack for opening spaces that combine its signature classic-library design details with local references and quirky accents.

The company reportedly plans to accelerate its store openings in the coming years. There is little mystery why: According to company research 30 to 50% of shoppers that buy in-store are unlikely to have made a purchase online. And then there is the revenue.

According to Fast Times, Warby Parker is averaging about $3,000 per square foot of retail space.

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