A Weekend of Customer Experience Observations

I've been out and about in New York over the past three days and, without intentionally embarking on a channel checking tour, I've found myself making a lot of mental notes about the experiences I've had.

On Friday morning, I attended an event at the Nolita pop-up shop of one of my favorite brands, ADAY. The tight collection of well-priced everyday essentials in technical fabrics has exuded minimalism in design and lifestyle since it launched a couple of years ago. The label's story comes to life in its first store. And the event - which drew a packed house at 9 AM on a rainy day - featured new ADAY pieces, Daily Harvest smoothie bowls, and mini-facials from Tulura (a new skin care brand/spa which sounds fabulous in its own right). The event wasn't just high-energy -- the dressing room was constantly in-use and guests were buying. The checkout process took place via ADAY team members who were naturally mingling with the crowd and transactions happened via swipe on an iPhone. No space needed for a special station. #GoodNewsRetail

Saturday morning, I took a walk through Hester Street Fair, a Lower East Side institution. Unlike so much of what's started out as indie or rotating, HSF still maintains these themes. A surprise yesterday was the Ice Cream Social, where for $10 one could buy a ticket to taste treats from a roster of unexpected sweets shops and vote on a winner. The effect was exploration, authentic chit-chat, and lots of happy people eating ice cream. There are plenty of ways retailers could reinterpret this concept. I also like that HSF's web site lists a slew of similar events on upcoming weekends. Iced coffee competition or tech fair, anyone? #GoodNewsRetail

Later on Saturday, I took a free fitness class at the Studio at Athleta in Flatiron. The is the second class I've taken there and I've found them both to be quality experiences. This strategy is a surefire traffic driver for the store. Moreover, once the class ended, I saw at least half of the ~18 attendees shopping the apparel. I also like how Athleta draws attention to its Reserve in Store program by placing the clearly-marked items prominently rather than in a stock room. #GoodNewsRetail

Finally, Sunday I was in Williamsburg, where the reduced density of chain store nameplates always makes me feel like I'm farther from Manhattan than I actually am. That said, two stores that caught my eye were... J. Crew and Madewell. J. Crew's Wythe Ave. store blends into the block and doesn't have its name on the frontage so a friend and I walked in knowing it seemed familiar but without immediately placing the troubled brand. The interior of the store is different and also doesn't scream recognition. It was well-curated and bore fewer markdowns, reminiscent of the way Nordstrom merchandises J. Crew. #GoodNewsRetail

Madewell capitalized on the heat by luring passersby with a sign promising ice cream. The store was crowded, the ubiquitous sale section was understated in terms of signage, and the table of ice cream cups (from Jeni's, no less) kept everyone happy on the way to checkout. Alongside the refreshments? "Bounceback" cards, offering 20% off a purchase to anyone who returns to a Madewell store during the remainder of the month, beginning tomorrow. #GoodNewsRetail

Plenty of Williamsburg boutiques such as Mociun and Catbird were busy with shoppers, too, which I loved to see.