On Sundays, Gothamist publishes reviews by its contributors and friends. The opinions belong only to the author, who once again, in this case, is me.
Pop-up stores seem to be the latest rage in New York City retailing. This trend involves a major brand coming into town, renting a large retail space for a month or two, and creating a "retail experience" to promote their brand. For instance, in September, the Illy coffee company opened up a coffee bar on West Broadway, and plans to close it in a couple of weeks. More recently, Wired Magazine and Kodak both opened popup stores on Wooster Street, scheduled to stay open through the holiday season. I went down to these two stores yesterday, and my reaction was similar to most of my friends who have already visited: the stores are okay, but something is missing, and the overall experience of visiting isn't that great.
What's missing? I think its the community interaction that comes from a store being part of the neighborhood for a long period of time. Both the Wired Store and the Kodak Store felt strangely empty-- even though quite a few people were there. Furthermore, the stores haven't had time to get the retailing experience right-- there's a lot of dead space in each store-- and badly placed displays. That stuff would get fixed as the stores received customer feedback, but sadly, these stores aren't going to open long enough to evolve. Comparing the Apple Store to the Wired Store or Kodak Store, you see a huge gap. The Apple Store has been open for a couple of years, and has had time to learn from its customers and become integrated into the fabric of the community. The experience of shopping there has improved over time, and now its one of the great retail spots below Houston Street. The Wired Store and Kodak Store don't even come close. Here are some pictures and a brief review of each:
The Wired Store: located on the corner of Wooster and Broadway, this store definitely disappointed me. It's set up as a series of rooms-- each one modeled after a place in a typical New York Apartment. Sadly, like a typical NYC apartment, it has a weird layout and is filled with a lot of unnecessary crap. The store functions as a sales point for all the products that Wired reviews at the front of the magazine each month-- but when I visited, most of the stuff didn't work, and the stuff that did work was mobbed. I spent about ten minutes there looking around, didn't buy anything, and don't plan to go back. The one cool feature of the store: the valets standing outside who promise to drive you to your next shopping location. I'm not sure if that's free or not-- but if it is, you should see how far they are willing to go. Jersey? Long Island? At least try to get them to drive you back to Brooklyn. Overall grade: C+.
The Kodak Store: located on Wooster Street just north of Spring, and advertised by people on Segways standing on nearby corners. I went in and enjoyed myself a little bit more than I did at the Wired Store. The Kodak Store has a better layout, and is decorated with some fairly nice photo exhibits. They also have some giganormous flat panels, showing off images. The best part was the technology-- the cameras all worked (including their recent WiFi models) and they had this cool machine that was batch scanning people's photos (at like 3 per second). The sales staff was nice, and was helping people print out their photos on the photo printers in the store. There was a coffee bar setup at the back, but no coffee was being served-- I'm not sure if that's actually going to be a working feature or not. Overall grade: B.