Shopping Experiences vs. Everything Else

Warning: Coastal Bubble POV

When I didn’t live in New York from 2008-14, I always felt I was missing out on the chance to watch retail here. Although I traveled back nearly monthly during most of those years and kept a careful list of new spots to check out, I couldn’t get to everything, especially launches and limited-time pop-up shops. 

I can’t imagine how I’d feel being away today because, even through I live here again, my list of store openings, collaborations, and pop-ups is growing faster than I can keep up with it. I live downtown, within a 20-minute walk of Soho and Nolita, which has most of the newness I want to see, but the announcements seem never-ending. 

Looking at where I’ve been recently (here and here) and what’s next on my list (future visits coming via Instagram Stories) and paying close attention to my daily inclinations, I have two main thoughts.

First of all, I silently cheer every time I see an emerging brand opening a store, a company using retail to build an experience, or a legacy retailer investing in a remodel, new store, or creative shop-in-shop. I firmly believe this will continue to happen, despite the statistical overstoring of America. As we now know, good retail stores build brands, acquire new customers, drive local online sales, and even sell things.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’m more concerned than ever about stores that are unpleasant shopping experiences or don’t offer anything new to see. Online shopping and delivery platforms have made it possible to avoid most* store experiences I don’t want to have and have allowed me not to have to browse stores I find necessary but difficult to shop.** 

The stores I think are in the most trouble are the ones like Macy’s and Gap Kids, where I may be walking by and could walk in to fulfill a vague need, but ordering online - probably from somewhere else - is easier and more pleasant and I don’t mind waiting a couple of days.

Aside from professional curiosity, there’s just little remaining reason to go into a store that I don’t think will have something I need today, won’t add an experience to my day, and may be full of friction (messy displays, inefficient organization, confusing pricing, elusive sales help).

*Drug stores and certain local convenience/miscellany boxes of chaos still have a place in my weekly life.

**I use BOPUS at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and The Container Store, and I take advantage of aisle-finder in the Lowe’s app.

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At the opening party night at Jenni Kayne in Tribeca last month, in partnership with tenoverten nail salon.