Rachel Shechtman is redefining the way we measure success in brick and mortar retail. Her 2000 square foot store in New York City–STORY–has the point of view of a magazine, changes decor like an art gallery, and sells products like a store. Against the odds, Shechtman’s innovative concept and business model drove STORY to be profitable by the end of its first year–physical retailers usually break even by year three.
STORY is intended to create unique experiences meant for the physical world and offers the type of in-person interactions that stimulate emotional brand associations which lead to word-of-mouth publicity. Shechtman explained during the BRITE ’14 conference that while digital retail has considerably progressed in the past twenty years, stores have remained in many ways static and, “judged only by their sales per square foot.”
Shechtman is redefining how to build a successful retail store in two main ways: by using brands as sponsors that contribute to the store’s concept, content, and revenue, and by monitoring the impact of the store experience, as much as its sales per square foot.
Like a magazine, STORY has an editorial perspective, releasing a new “issue” every few weeks. It engages shoppers by partnering with brands to rotate its design and merchandise around carefully curated content and experiences. Like an art gallery, the team behind STORY creates immersive experiences that encourage participation from store visitors, transforming every aspect of the environment: from wall color and textures to merchandise and fixtures.
STORY’s model of innovation through brand sponsorship helps bring a different source of revenue and provides unique encounters that cannot be experienced anywhere else. The Making Things STORY edition –sponsored by GE– used 75% of the space for “pure experiences,” with laser cutters and injection molding machines available for customers to make plastic robots, jewelry, sunglasses, and customized MetroCard holders.
In 2012, STORY partnered with Benjamin Moore to create the Color STORY, where Benjamin Moore got to showcase its newest collection, Color Stories, and present a session, “The Power of Color & its De-Stressing Benefits,” led by a Benjamin Moore senior designer and a color marketing expert. They taught attendees how to use color in small living spaces with the purpose of detoxing and de-stressing. Shechtman pointed out that not only does this provide a second revenue stream for STORY, but it enables the brand to be their own storyteller. As she explains, “Benjamin Moore knows a lot more about color than Rachel Shechtman or the STORY team.”
The current issue, Good STORY, features a combination of brands including TOMS, Uncharted Play, ROMA boots, and Bombas socks, focusing on the stories behind the products, their missions and their vision for social change. As explained on STORY’s website, “each product tells a story that matters because it’s a story of people joining together to do something good.”
BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO