Inspiring trip to New York – Checking out the Retail Experience (day 2 and 3)
Day 2 – Eatsa and Grand Central Station Food Plaza
Still somewhat reeling from nightly entertainment in one of the local bars on 9th Avenue, I get up for breakfast. I have the choice of doing so in my hotel, or at one of many breakfast cafes: the hangout of New Yorkers where they enjoy breakfast with large cups of coffee, while reading the paper accompanied by the sounds of the live TV news broadcasts.
Today’s tour starts at Eatsa. An interesting concept because it features digital interaction. We’re all interested to learn more about this minimum investment concept with maximum return. New Yorkers hate waiting. Success equals speedy service and continuous communication about the status of your order. At Eatsa ordering is done at any one of the touch screens. It’s likely that this concept will be copied by others in New York, not least because of the low prices and healthy products. Something that many New Yorkers are looking for: healthier food at acceptable prices.
Close to East is The iconic Grand Central Station Foodhall which also offers good food. The central hall of the station leads you to the enormous food hall with its famous Grand Central Oyster Bar. What I personally like about this hall, is that it shows the transition from the old food halls to the present-day ones. This is the retro version (New York’s Chelsea Market being the modern urban version). Untouched since the 80’s, the hall gives a great impression of ‘modern’ at that time. But, we also hit upon the hit format Shake Shack. Its perfectly integrated digital strategy (order & pay via the app) is similar to the one used by Domino’s.
Nike – It’s the experience!
On to Nike on Broadway. Nike takes off with a 5-storey playground. It reflects a new marketing concept: story scaping. Stop advertising and start creating worlds that bind customers to your brand. And Nike is pretty good at creating captivating story scapes. Play basketball in a basketball court. Play football on the small field similar to the one behind your home. Run on a proper track. Everything is about experience: virtual or real world. No costs have been spared in creating the Nike worlds. Furniture made from Corian, with engraved navigation and product information, upholstered back walls, small stages made from cement fibre boards for an urban look, concrete floors interspersed with massive beech parts and awesome lighting that is in sync with the rhythm of natural light. It’s all right here. It’s clearly not about transactions and turnover, but about winning the customer’s favour and getting him stick to the brand. Good job! …. As they like to say in the US.
Back to the ’80s
Adidas – It’s the lifestyle!
Next stop is Nike’s main competitor. Adidas. On 5th Avenue. An avenue that I can recommend to any serious shopper: Japanese Muji or Uniqlo, Italian Bottega Veneta or just straightforward American at Stuart Weitzmann. But, there’s also high tech: with Apple and Microsoft close to each other. Anyway, now it’s Adidas versus the more than impressive Nike experience. Both stores opened shortly after each other. If Nike is experience, Adidas is lifestyle. Urban, street lifestyle is reflected in the store design that focuses on youth and adolescents. The store’s concept is that of a high school. Do anything from personalizing your sneakers to watching live sports events. The design is truly amazing, with a material choice that is both genius and daring. No fake here! But how do both Adidas and Nike try to stand out from the other stores in their high traffic locations? Their shop windows! Go see for yourself!
If Nike is experience, Adidas is lifestyle
Day 3 – Wegmans and Stew Leonards (if Trump hadn’t spoiled it all)
Today we leave the city for a visit to Wegmans. We go to Hanover NJ, a good 45-minute drive once we’re away from the congested city centre. Wegmans, founded by the Wegmans brothers (read the whole story at wegmans.com) has always been great in fresh. According to Business Insider, they beat Trader Joe’s on fruit and vegetables in both 2016 and 2017. The nice thing about Wegmans is its HR policy. They have a collective health insurance as well as a fund for education costs. This results in happy employees, which translates into happy customers.
Then there’s the store itself. It’s huge! On arrival we’re immediately enchanted by what theatrical entrepreneur Stew Leonards (whom we hope to visit later) has created. Above the fresh counters, there are old-style barn roofs. The spitting image of what you get to see out in the country. A true taste of America. The roofs are decked with slate and straw bales underline the fact that it’s a barn. The absolute show stopper is the rooster that pops out from behind a barn window to crow at us as if the sun has just risen. Genius? Ah, give the people bread and play. Americans love concepts and drama. The store has been open for all of two months, but it looks like it was built in the 1980s. This is because of the choice of materials (loads of wood veneer, melamine and PVC) and use of colour (80’s ochre-yellow and burgundy-red).
The observant visitor can only but conclude that there is a powerful concept team behind this all. There is a very clear navigation for the single person household as well as one for many person ones. There’s also a nice distinction between cheap & discount, and fresh & organic & premium products are also distinctively displayed. The aisles are spacious and – of course – there’s the train. The theatrical touch continues in the food court. It’s as if you’re eating in a fisherman’s home or staying with an Italian family in Tuscany. All using 80’s types props. I suppose it sets Wegmans off from the rest: no urban-style white tiles or dried pine stone slabs for panelling here. It’s all straightforward fake. But, with an excellent product assortment and loads of fresh food.
Traditional, almost outdated colours and materials at Wegmans
And yes, we would have loved to visit the Stew Leonards store on Long Island. But, that meant going back through New York. And that was a no go. President Trump was also passing through, on his way to a meeting at the United Nations. The whole area around 5th and 7th was cut off. And with it our chance to drive through to Stew Lennard. A big disappointment to say the least, as Stew Lennard is still considered a pioneer in the field of food retail and apparently has – once again – put in place a beautiful concept on Long island.
And so, our tour came to an abrupt end. Le Grand Comptoir (at JFK) is where we drink to the inspiration we’ve acquired in this big city. I return home with a wealth of ideas and the reassurance that what retail is achieving over here in our small country is pretty neat stuff.
Part 1: MVRO visits New York