Marianne Wilson
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A healthy mix of new formats, concepts

BY Marianne Wilson

Don’t be fooled: There is still plenty of life left in physical retail — and not just for the short term. The industry is ripe with new formats and new concepts.

What’s especially heartening is that the development is coming from digitally native upstarts and familiar, longstanding brands. Even the founder of Tom’s of Maine has thrown his hat in the ring, with a sustainable apparel concept called Rambler’s Way.

Here’s a look at some of the activity:

Dyson Demo: Dyson Demo, from the British brand best known for its vacuum cleaners, made its U.S. debut with a flagship in Manhattan. Designed to encourage people to try out and understand Dyson technology, the 3,100-sq.-ft. store is sleek, futuristic and totally hands on.

Dry Goods: After flying under the radar for several years, this subsidiary of Von Maur Department Stores is spreading its wings a bit. Dry Goods, which offers on-trend junior women’s apparel and accessories from a variety of brands amid a hip, vintage-style backdrop, will open 12 stores throughout the Midwest this year.

Everlane: The socially minded, digitally native brand has opened its first permanent locations (in New York City and San Francisco) in a push to expand with key locations nationwide. With no signage or mannequins, Everlane stores have a minimal, uncluttered look that’s perfectly in sync with the brand’s online identity. The stores even live up to Everlane’s promise of transparency, offering takeaway cards with information on its factories around the globe.

FAO Schwarz: The venerable toy retailer is making a comeback, with plans to open, in partnership with the Hudson Group, a chain of FAO Schwarz-branded airport shops in the United States and Canada. It’s a smart move given the explosive growth of airport retail. Also in the works: a flagship at New York’s Rockefeller Center.

Land’s End: The longtime specialty apparel company is doubling down on bricks-and-mortar, with plans to unveil a new retail concept (in Chicago) this year, and four to six additional locations. It expects to open 40 to 60 stores during the next five years.

Riley Rose: Forever 21 goes deep into beauty — mostly of the indie kind — with its new freestanding lifestyle concept. Awash in pink hues, product demos and Instagrammable moments, Riley Rose is a young beauty lover’s paradise — with a smattering of fun home goods and sweet treats.

Reserve: Starbucks has big (1,000 stores) plans for its new upscale coffee/café concept, which debuted in Seattle. The marketplace-style format combines higher-end coffees with freshly-made Italian goods and p.m. cocktails.

Roots: A new experiential format brings the Canadian sportswear brand’s heritage to life. A leather customization workshop lets shoppers view Root’s handcrafted process. Shoppers can also customize their own products. The brand is looking to ramp up its U.S. store footprint during the next few years.

Universal Fashion:  The plus-size “inclusive” women’s apparel brand known for its sleek, stylish fashions has amassed a cult following. Flush with a new round of funding, it plans to expand its retail format (two showrooms) nationwide.

The retailers above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more in the offing — or at least in the pipeline.

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