Footwear Plus | October November 2015

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Story Time Entrepreneur and master of retail reinvention Rachel Shechtman shares insights from Story, her unique rotating concept store in New York, and offers advice on how retailers can create success stories of their own. BY K AT H Y PA S S E RO

RACHEL SHECHTMAN OFTEN likens her 2,000-square-foot concept shop in Manhattan to a magazine. And like a magazine, Story produces a new “issue” filled with fresh content—in the form of different merchandise and a redesigned setting—every four to eight weeks. Since first opening its doors in 2011, Story has featured a kaleidoscope of themes. There was Color Story sponsored by Benjamin Moore, where the store installed splashes of neon-bright color; sold vibrantly hued shoes, socks, cosmetics and electronics; and brought in a senior interior designer to teach shoppers how to use color to detox and de-stress. Then there was His Story sponsored by Procter & Gamble, Details and Birchbox Man, which showcased trendy men’s products and an in-store barber who pampered visitors with products from Gillette, Braun and Old Spice. Last winter, Story presented Home for the Holidays sponsored by American Express, where shoppers could stock up on a variety of great gift items from books to bitters. After each installment, Story closes while the staff transforms the space for the next “issue.” Most recently, Story created what Shechtman calls a “collabapalooza” featuring a variety of products adorned with distinctive artwork by Instagram illustrator Donald Robertson. For sale were everything from kiss-print Diet Coke bottles to “hyper-limited edition” Canada Goose jackets. In another innovative recent installment, Shechtman convinced designer/fashion icon Iris Apfel to provide a selection of her own jewelry to be sold at Story during New York Fashion Week. 12 • october/november 2015

To date, the store has featured STYLE FILE products from more than 1,000 brands and attracted some of the business How would you describe your world’s heaviest hitters, from Target personal style? Casual. to Intel, as sponsors. For them, Story functions as a sort of shopping lab What’s your go-to shoe style? where they can collect anecdotal data Vans slip-ons. on how consumers respond to their What are you reading now? products. At the same time, they boost Emails. brand awareness among tastemakers and average New Yorkers. What’s your favorite thing to do Shechtman herself functions as when you’re not working? Travel. a creative agency for her sponsors, What’s your motto? Be authentic. providing services from content What do you love most about creation to marketing and promoyour job? That I’m my own boss! tion. To make it all happen, the fourth-generation entrepreneur draws from more than 12 years of work as a consultant working with brands including Toms, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Gilt Groupe, the Gap and Kraft, among others. This month, she sat down with Deckers Brands and Footwear Plus to explain her unique merchandising/marketing approach and how retailers can weave it into their own narratives. What have been some of Story’s most successful installments and why? Each of our concepts at Story is designed to address specific, strategic deliverables for the partners who sponsor the installation. So we measure success differently from concept to concept—and sales are only a part of our equation. For example, our Making Things Story, created in collaboration with General Electric, was a success from an experiential standpoint because we produced more than 100 events in a three-week span and introduced our community to technology like 3D printers and injection molders. But merchandise was less of a priority. Our last concept, with Donald Story with Donald Robertson, was one of my favorites because we were able to create more than 25 original merchandise collaborations using his artwork. Co-branded merchandise was something new for us and it gave us an opportunity to make Donald’s artwork tangible and accessible. Why do you think your magazine formula has been such a hit with shoppers? What are the key ingredients to its success? At the core of our model is the belief that we are the same people offline as we are online. When I launched Story, there wasn’t really anyone who was offering consumers an opportunity to do more than just shop in a brickand-mortar store. I think that by acknowledging that people are hungry for physical experiences that are as rich and engaging as the experiences that they get online, we have been able to give our community a place to discover, connect and, yes, shop. So the key ingredient is always this idea of creating a community in a physical space and providing people with a reason (or a story) that makes them want to come back again and again because they know we’re always doing something new and different. How might an independent brick-and-mortar shoe retailer apply some of Story’s concepts? I think it’s about really thinking beyond the transaction and realizing that as a brick-and-mortar retailer, you have something that many ecommerce >53

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