Hudson Yards, the new $25 billion development on the west side of Manhattan, is being billed as a “triumph of culture, commerce and cuisine.” Company headquarters, retail, luxury residences and public spaces all commingle in this impressive space at the end of the High Line.
Hudson Yards has more than 100 retail stores over three floors. Don’t call it a mall, though. The Hudson Yards team prefers the term ‘vertical retail.’ Our retail team at Sandbox visited recently to see just how much it differed from the typical shopping center experience.
Once inside, the space really doesn’t look all that different from a typical mall — albeit an extremely luxurious one with marble floor to ceiling. Exploring the stores, we noticed your typical mall mainstays like Zara, Coach and Sephora as well as higher-end retail — Louis Vuitton, Cartier, New York City’s first Neiman Marcus. Diving deeper, though, trends emerged:
Brands definitely want to put their best efforts forward in such a high-profile environment. Even stores that aren’t technically flagships have that feel to them — interesting merchandising, a lifestyle approach. Concept stores are prevalent, with L’Oreal introducing their first (L’Oreal is all in on Hudson Yards, with their U.S. headquarters also there) and other offerings on the “Floor of Discovery.” FortyFiveTen, the first outpost of the Dallas-based boutique, is divided into four storefronts that open up into the larger space creating an immersive gallery feel.
There’s also a definite element of unexpectedness and fun throughout. David Chang’s Peach Mart is a sort of bodega for billionaires. Styled off the typical corner markets throughout the city, it’s an opportunity to get both Chang’s Korean lunchtime menu and packaged snacks to go. B8ta is a small chain of concept stores with an outpost in Hudson Yards specifically designed to let shoppers test new innovative products in person that wouldn’t normally have a retail presence.
Spaces in Hudson Yards let you make your purchase without even speaking to another human. Transactions for drinks purchased at the Drug Store take place entirely over text message.
In B8ta, all specs and product info live on iPads. If you’re interested in purchasing a product, you just tap a button on the tablet to summon a sales associate.
Outside of Hudson Yards, these themes carry through to other prime shopping neighborhoods in New York. Soho has One Kings Lane and TheRealReal stores, both brands that live primarily online.
TheRealReal offers a seamless online-to-offline experience, giving shoppers the ability to browse the inventory that’s in-store and also check online inventory via iPads placed in sitting areas throughout the space. One Kings Lane sets up constantly evolving vignettes in a New York apartment-style setting, placing product in context and selling the lifestyle in a way the website can’t.
Meanwhile, at Canada Goose, the luxury extreme weather outerwear brand is bringing the outdoors in. The cashwrap area is built on a single 1.7-ton block of marble, sourced in British Columbia and meant to evoke glaciers. Stores have ‘freezer rooms’ where shoppers can test the product in real life conditions.
As online shopping becomes the primary driver of sales, retail is evolving from a space to purchase to a space to experience. Brands are shifting focus to accommodate, and these are just a few of the great examples.