STORE SPACES

North Face offers immersive experience on Fifth Avenue

BY Al Urbanski

The great outdoors has come to Fifth Avenue — courtesy of The North Face.

The retailer, a division of VF Corp., is opening a two-level, 20,000-sq.-ft. flagship in the old Manufacturers Trust Company building, a New York City landmark of modernist architecture. (The official opening date is Oct. 26.)

Though the canyons outside the expansive windows on the second floor of store are formed by skyscrapers and not rock bluffs, North Face’s VP of direct-to-consumer retail Erik Searles finds the airy atmosphere a fitting backdrop for the high-end camping and climbing gear on display.

“This is our biggest full-price brick-and-mortar store outside of Chicago and Anchorage, and it is meant to showcase the North Face brand,” Searles said during a pre-opening tour he gave to Chain Store Age. “We expect people to walk into the store and experience how they will engage with North Face in the outdoors.”

The store offers an immersive brand experience including an interactive climbing wall, community seating and a custom embroidery service called “Lot, Stock and Barrel.” The service is likely to engage passersby on busy Fifth Avenue as the first thing one sees in the front window when approaching the shop from the north are embroiderers on sewing machines weaving intricate designs into down jackets and the like.

“We have 20 designs we’ve created that can be sewn into the garment without compromising its functionality,” Searles said. “We want people to be able to customize the product, to go a little wild with it.”

The retailer was not allowed to make any changes to walls or floors in the building because of its landmark status. But it is capitalizing on the situation by treating the space like a natural outdoor setting and using it to display its gear as it would in the wild. To that end, the second floor will feature a “base camp” patterned after the kind set up by top climbers and a “campsite” where visitors can relax with a cup of coffee and access Wi-Fi. Fitting rooms sit mid-floor and are constructed of pipe and the same fabric used in North Face tents.

“You’ll come up the escalator and you’ll feel you’re in the outdoors,” Searles said.

To ensure the brand-authentic experience, most of the items in the store were created using the same high-quality materials that North Face products are designed with. The fitting rooms, for example, are constructed of the same fabric and nylon and aluminum poles used to make North Face tents.

North Face will debut its new high-performance Summit Series merchandise line at the store, and intends to use the high-profile New York platform to debut other new products as they emerge.

The retailer signed an eight-year sub-lease for the space with previous tenant Joe Fresh, an apparel brand owned by Canadian grocer Loblaw Companies. The brand entered the United States in 2012, opening freestanding stores and in-store shops at J.C. Penney. But Joe Fresh never gained traction with U.S. shoppers, and the company shuttered its last U.S. store in spring 2016.

The store’s design was a collaborative effort design between SET Creative, New York City, and North Face. The retailer also worked with Sargenti Architects, Paramus, New Jersey.

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SPECS reveals opening keynote speakers

BY Katherine Boccaccio

SPECS 2017, the “Retail Event for Store Innovation,” announced that three of the nation’s top financial experts will open the program at the 53rd annual SPECS conference, which will be held March 12-14 at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee (Orlando), Florida.

Headlining the “SPECS Economic Summit: The U.S. Economy in 2017” are Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media; Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody Analytics; and moderator Ron Insana, CNBC and MSNBC commentator and nationally acclaimed business journalist. The presentation, scheduled for Monday, March 13, at 8 am, will provide a balanced, 360-degree view of the economic challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The keynoter for the Tuesday program will be announced next week.

SPECS 2017, exclusively produced by Chain Store Age, is a diverse, dynamic and engaging window into the world of retail, offering an annual opportunity for education and networking. A lineup of more than 30 workshops and sessions will cover topics and issues that impact store design, construction and maintenance.

To review the preliminary agenda and to register for SPECS 2017, click here.

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Report: Target to test vertical farming — in its stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Target Corp. is planning to test an agricultural process that involves growing plants indoors in precisely programmed conditions.

The discounter plans to test vertical farms within select U.S. stores, according Business Insider. The idea grew out of the Food + Future CoLab, a collaboration between Target, Ideo and the MIT Media Lab.

“The idea is that by next spring, we’ll have in-store growing environments,” Casey Carl, Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer, told Business Insider.

Click here to read more.

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