- By Colleen McNamara
We’re going to just go ahead and say it: SoHo is our favorite neighbourhood in Manhattan. What was once a hotbed for artists, musicians and anyone who identified with the term “free spirit,” through the years, the area has kept its aesthetic charm yet evolved into a shopper’s dream. The history, the vibe and the innovative retailers who call this area home promise to thwart even the most dedicated E-commerce shopper out of the house and onto those picturesque cobblestone streets.
If you find yourself in SoHo soon, take a note or two from these stores who seem to be doing everything right.
Why we love it: Having just opened its doors in November, this 55,000 square-foot store is something from the future: testing labs allow shoppers to try products in the actual context they’ll be using them, the store prides itself on “personalized performance” thanks to designated “trial zones” dispersed throughout the store. Trial zones come in the form of athlete’s favorite environments: A basketball court, running zone and soccer field provide the perfect testing ground for the sport of shopper’s choice.
What’s most special about Nike’s SoHo store is how the retailer has embraced technology to formulate the ultimate in-store experience. For example, the running trial zone has a treadmill propped in front of a digital image of Central Park, and gives shoppers real-time, on-screen feedback as they run.
And sneaker freaks will find their happy place on one of the five floors too: the world’s largest collection of Nike Sneakers and the famous Air Force 1s are found on the second floor.
Why we love it: SONOS easily challenges Apple’s flagship on 5th Avenue as one of the most innovative spaces in Manhattan. Much like Nike, SONOS uses technology to catapult consumers into a different world where they’d be using the product. SONOS has taken the transcendent nature of music and cultivated a parallel experience in the physical world. (See the brand’s incredible commercial here.)
SONOS has seven different separate spaces in the store, appearing like glassy, back-to-the-future urban huts that you want to pack up and bring home with you. Every separate room is incredibly inspired, decked out with work from artists like Mark Stamaty and Mark Chamberlain. They borrowed cassette tapes from Thurston Moore, and a lifesize portrait of Rick Rubin greets music lovers as they enter the door — reminding everyone to blast a little Run-DMC as soon as their SONOS is installed. Not only does SONOS make you want to use music to transform your home into a space beyond your imagination, you want to invite the clever people behind this company over for dinner, and you’ll probably let them control the playlist too.
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3. Canada Goose
Why we love it: Canada is extremely cold, and New York isn’t especially balmy in the winter either; which is to say, there’s definitely a market for incredibly warm parkas that feel like a wearable duvet in Manhattan. The flagship shop on Wooster street doubles as an art gallery for jackets, nodding to the area’s artsy roots. Whitewashed pine floors blend with industrial finishes and bright lights, mixing a modern feel with crisp, cool finishes you’d find in the Great White North.
You can identify store staff easily as they rock the lightweight vests, and they’re so well-trained on the ins of the products you figure they may have hand sewn the coats themselves. It’s the type of brick-and-mortar you enter and “get” the brand right away — so much so that you leave looking forward to the prospect of below-zero temps. (Yes, really!)
Why we love it: What’s more unappealing than mattresses wrapped in plastic, stacked along a wall, illuminated by flickering fluorescent lights?! Shopping for the bed of your dreams should be an experience that actually reflects the feeling of stepping into your bedroom oasis after a long day.
Casper’s Spring Street store is designed like the SoHo apartment you wish you had, with exposed brick walls, ginormous loft windows, and of course, breezy bedrooms with soaring ceilings. The beds are outfitted with sheets, so when you test them out — it’s exactly how it would feel once you have it in your own home. Casper proves that branding in retail goes far beyond the limited scope of what the product is meant for; if you market a lifestyle, shoppers will become loyal brand ambassadors. Essentially, you’ll be sold on the chic, calm and relaxed life that Casper sells in this store concept — and the mattresses happen to be pretty phenomenal too.