Must-see Stores in NY

Someone visiting town for the holidays asked me what retail to see while in New York. I could go on and on (and on) but here's what came to mind first. Please comment or tweet and tell me what you'd add! 

Rapha – The brand’s new store in Soho is a community hub for cycling enthusiasts. Technical and fashionable product is combined with an open-layout café that streams races on a large screen at all times while patrons sit on laptops and work. The staff is knowledgeable and welcoming.

Story – As its founder says, this concept “changes like a gallery, has a point of view like a magazine, and sells things like store”. I’ve been to nearly all of its “stories” (which change every 6-8 weeks) since it opened almost six years ago and they’re consistently engaging. The themes give people a reason to meander through the entire space because even if the product isn’t commercially compelling (though, it usually is), it’s entertaining and informative. I also appreciate that EVERY time I’ve visited, a greeter asks me whether I’m familiar with the concept.

Chambers Street Wines – The staff in this local, family-owned shop in Tribeca has endless patience and knowledge and no snobbery in sharing information and recommending wines and pairing suggestions at every price point. Pricing and wine details are available and transparent such that even a novice feels comfortable.

Sezane* – French in every way, there’s no rush here. This is a Soho store that’s impeccably merchandised. Unlike others that may use visual props to aid displays, Sezane relies on the merchandise – and the talented eye of visual merchandisers – to create an environment customers want to discover every corner of and don’t want to leave. The range of product across categories and price points also makes this experience an accessible one.

Adidas (5th Ave. location) From the knowledgeable and genuine greeters to the limited-edition local-only merchandise to the Instagram-worthy places to sit down and recharge (with free wifi, of course), Adidas’ large Fifth Avenue location is a 360-degree destination.

Fanatics – At a time when so much in-store technology has become gratuitous, I appreciate how Fanatics’ flagship in partnership with the NBA has large, accessible screens that are focused on true value-adds, such as product customization.

The Container Store – The service at this chain is the differentiator. I’ve interacted with the associates countless times and consistently walk away feeling that they’re passionate about home organization and consummate experts on every item in the store. Festive highlights such as “Gift Wrap Wonderland” add not just merchandising excitement, but experience and education through expert gift wrap classes on Saturdays in December.

Warby Parker – Recently, I saw someone say that one doesn’t buy a brand’s product, but buys what a brand stands for. While I don’t think this is true across the board, I think it’s Warby’s stores suggest it’s true for them based on the richness and depth of the experience – from the visual merchandising to the price to the ease of purchase to the on-brand customer service and marketing.

Rebecca Minkoff – There are more screens than necessary in this store and the screens inside the fitting rooms have more features than essential, but one should always be able to summons help or new merchandise to the fitting room and this technology makes it possible. One also can order a beverage, which augments the experience.

Levi's (14th St. location) - This is a store where the screens used to display denim product details go a long way. They communicate more than old-school signage would and the imagery and movement is attention-getting. The recently-opened concept got more press for its washing machines (free to use), but I didn't see any in use when I stopped by.

Heatonist – This is a small footprint in Williamsburg and, more recently, Chelsea Market that is laser-focused on its market authority, which is small-batch hot sauce. The branding is fantastic and the copy always on-brand, and the team has endless patience to let customers sample the product. They’re also incredibly knowledgeable about the details of each sauce and how to use it at home. The bottles and jars even are easy to gift and ship with their help.

Rebag and The Real Real – It’s not easy to present “secondhand” merchandise in “original market” ways, but these two companies opened within the past month in Soho and are executing their visions remarkably well. The visual presentations do justice to the original brands while making luxury more accessible. Both stores have associates ready to accept product from consignors or sellers and The Real Real in particular merchandises its large store like a boutique, leveraging new product from other brands to round out the assortment.

Sonos – This store is visually stunning but what makes it most interesting is that it’s clearly a brand and customer retention play rather than purely an investment in customer acquisition; while I own Sonos speakers and use the app daily, visiting that store makes me appreciate the product more, leaving me more likely to use it and buy additional units and more likely to tell others about it.

If you want to see what I'm seeing, I share store visits on Instagram and I'm playing with doing so in Stories, too. There will lots here as holiday pop-up shop season shifts into full-gear 

*In this list, I tried to stay away from places I'd be calling out mostly for the product or visual merchandising, but Sezane is new and I made an exception. Others in this category for me are Dover Street Market, Fivestory, Totokaelo, and the just-opened Webster.