Maintaining a strong brick and mortar presence in the age of e-commerce is much easier said than done–just ask Sports Authority, Borders, and K-Mart. While some national chains are struggling to compete with online retailers like Amazon.com, a new breed of boutique retail spaces has risen. Their strategy? In addition to providing quality products at competitive prices, retailers at the forefront of capturing customer appeal cater to consumers’ desire for an ambiance, an experience, and the “cool” factor.
Opening a retail location in 2016 is definitely not for everyone, but with the right vision and execution, a simple sneaker store or video game shop can become a destination shopping experience that will attract a loyal following. Let’s take a look at a few unique retail spaces that are blowing our minds with their creativity:
One of Boston’s premier sneaker boutiques Bodega looks more like a place to get an empanada and a Coke than it looks like the spot to get the latest New Balance collaboration or limited edition Air Jordan. From the outside, that is.
Upon entrance, Bodega looks like any other convenience store. Shoppers can actually buy snacks, sodas and other bodega fare in the front section of the store. Experienced shoppers, however, know to stand by the soda machine in the back until it slides open to reveal one of the best sneaker and streetwear retailers on the East Coast. Once shoppers walk through the “secret entrance” they are immediately greeted with hardwood floors, racks of the latest streetwear, and a seemingly endless supply of limited edition kicks. The store has established its’ reputation over time with a steady stream of collaborations with the top sneaker and clothing brands, and by aggressively marketing its status as a much cooler alternative to mainstream sneaker chains.
Jersey City, NJ
The newest addition to this list opened in the Spring of 2016, and definitely raised the bar for clothing stores in Jersey City. Clear Port is named after the private airport in Teeterboro, NJ that is frequented by NYC’s high rollers, like rapper Jay-Z. When customers enter the store, which is set up like an actual airport, they are asked to place personal belongings (backpacks, purses, etc.) into security screening trays and are directed to the correct “terminal,” or department. There, it becomes abundantly clear they have picked the best place to “Get Fly” outside of New York City.
The store carries several of the most sought-after brands in high-end streetwear, and caters to young customers looking to push the style envelope. It’s one of the few stores in New Jersey that carries start-up lines like Rothco, Black Pyramid, and Rustic Dime alongside established brands, like Pharrell’s Billionaire Boys Club.
Digital Press Videogames
Since 2005, Digital Press Videogames has been equal parts video game store, retro gaming museum, arcade, art gallery, and eSports hub. The store is the unofficial headquarters for North Jersey’s gaming community, and is one of the few spaces where the newest PS4 and XBox One games are stacked right up next to the Atari 2600, Super Nintendo, and Sega Dreamcast classics.
More than a mere retail space, the store is a true gathering place for gamers of all ages and ability levels. Digital Press even hosts weekly events, ranging from competitive first-person shooter tournaments to vintage gaming marathons. Additionally, the location functions as a museum of video game history, featuring original games/systems and modern artists’ interpretations of old school games like Pong. Whether you’re looking for a hard-to-find game from back in the day, an eSports tournament, or a place to relive the countless hours you spent with a controller in hand, Digital Press is worth the trip.
Los Angeles, CA
For the last decade, LA’s Gallery 1988 has been ground zero for the mixing of high and low brow visual artistry that began with Andy Warhol’s introduction of “Pop Art” in the 60s. The store features a constantly changing array of artists, and displays pop culture-based artwork at affordable prices. Past exhibits have featured artwork based on Ghostbusters, The Goonies, and various video game characters, among much more.
Due to its success, Gallery 1988 has also compiled several books based on “Crazy 4 Cult,” an annual exhibit which features art inspired by cult movies. In addition to two retail locations in L.A., the brand has also opened pop-up shops in New York City to satisfy its’ growing East Coast fan base.
We might still feature Kith on this list if it only had its one Manhattan location that featured premium sneakers located in the heart of SOHO.
We’d probably still feature Kith on the list if there was only Kith Women, featuring some of the best clothing and footwear lines for females.
But the location that makes Kith a surefire pick for our list of cool retail locations has to be the one on Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn retailer features clean lines, glass shelving, and stark white walls that make it look as much like a museum as a store. But Kith wasn’t content with just providing NYC’s discerning consumers with some of the most exclusive clothing and footwear choices–aside from the crisp look and feel, the Brooklyn location stands out from the competition with the inclusion of Kith Treats.
Connected to the flagship Brooklyn store, Kith Treats provides an expansive cereal bar as a place for customers to take a break from the Brooklyn hustle. And it doesn’t stop with simple corn flakes and skim milk–the menu features mixtures of cereals and condiments selected by Kith’s famous clientele, including professional athletes, rappers, Internet personalities, and graffiti artists. Selling limited edition sneakers and cereal under the same roof is definitely a novel concept, but it is definitely one visitors will not soon forget.