retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Women’s Wear Daily has a story about a new Eileen Fisher “hybrid retail concept” in Brooklyn, New York, that is designed to integrate “the brand’s latest ideas, innovations and experiments in nearly 5,000 square feet of space” and turn it into a “community-centered” experience - not just a store.

The name of the store: Making Space.

According to the story, “Efforts to engage locals — and visitors — will take place on the lower level and include workshops, movie screenings, gallery shows and neighborhood events. Four product types will be highlighted at the store. A workshop for Renew designs will give consumers a look at how items from the company’s take-back program are given a second life.

“At the front of the store, a dedicated area will feature a different artist-in-residence every two weeks … Besides artist-led workshops, Making Space, will offer Lifework, whose goal is to help consumers build a more mindful, embodied life, which is part of the brand’s mission.”

Indeed, a mindful and deconstructed approach to life, fashion and even acquisition seems core to the brand and the space.

The location of the store, WWD writes, “has always housed makers of some sort. At the turn of the century, the building was a carriage factory. It was also a belt factory and more recently, invisible dog leashes were produced there.

“Fisher’s recycling centers receive about 800 items of the brand’s clothing every day. Garments are refurbished by designers at Fisher’s Tiny Factory in Irvington, N.Y., and Teeny Tiny Factory in Seattle using techniques such as over-dyeing with natural ingredients like pomegranate and eucalyptus or safflower to hide stains. Traditional mending methods such as boro, sashiko and embroidery celebrate flaws. Badly damaged items are salvaged by deconstructing and then engineering the pieces to minimize waste. As much of the recycled material is used as possible, with pieces stitched into Remade designs that preserve the value of the textiles.”

I think there is a lesson here for retailers about the use of space and the engagement of community, especially as bricks-and-mortar retailers seek ways to differentiate themselves from online retailers.

If you’re going to compete, it seems to me, it is critical to do things that the online guys can’t do - offer community-minded features, create theater, provide unique services, and look for ways to turn a physical space into a tangible and differentiated branding asset, not just a shell in which other brands are sold.

Such stores will be better positioned to succeed, I think. Such stores will be Eye-Openers.
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