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From an appointment-only emporium selling a soon-to-be obsolete brand to a beauty boutique inspired by a murder mystery, an around-the-world tour of some of the most interesting retail concepts that have opened in the last year.
This story first appeared in the April 13, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
LOS ANGELES, USA
For online businesses, feedback mostly comes in the form of data points. That’s great for figuring out what sells and what doesn’t, but not as good for figuring out why something sells. DermStore has set up a 1,675-square-foot shop in Hermosa Beach, Calif., a short drive from the Web site’s El Segundo headquarters, to enhance the Web quantitative with the brick-and- mortar qualitative. “It gives us a testing lab. We can go there and ask customers why they grabbed a certain product,” says chief executive officer Dan Obegi.
Although the store is only projected to constitute .1 percent of DermStore’s sales, he says, “We don’t look at it as a P-and-L item. It’s a marketing and brand relationship part of the business.”
With 50 brands and nearly 1,000 stockkeeping units, DermStore’s retail location, which opened March 19, has a very pared-down offering of its massive online selection of 650 brands and 23,000 sku’s. (An iPad is on hand so customers can search the entire selection.) Brands were chosen because they’re bestsellers, insist on a retail presence to be stocked or DermStore would like to learn about them through customer vetting. Those carried include Dermalogica, Murad, Jan Marini, Jane Iredale, Philosophy, René Furterer and Alterna. Skin care services, using products from six brands, are done in two treatment rooms; there are also three salon chairs for hair services.
Eventually, Obegi sees the company integrating the online and offline aspects more and more, including flagships in major U.S. cities. “If you want to order something online and pick it up 10 minutes later instead of waiting a day or two, it will be there. I don’t think we would open retail stores as a profit-generating business. It would be more of an extension of our online business, where we would try to take our online service to another level,” he says.
1316 Hermosa Avenue; Tel: 310-526-0008
Malin + Goetz
LOS ANGELES, USA
When Andrew Goetz and Matthew Malin opened their namesake personal care brand’s first store in Chelsea eight years ago, it was around the corner from where they lived. They understood the community, and fashioned their store to be part of its fabric. “We wanted something similar when we decided to open in L.A.,” says Goetz. So, he and Malin abandoned their bicycles in favor of a Nissan subcompact and spent a month getting to know Larchmont Boulevard, a quaint street in affluent Hancock Park. The result: a 950-square-foot space nestled among the local clothing stores, coffee shops and fitness studios. “What we liked about it is it isn’t overly slick. It is very much a neighborhood,” says Goetz.
Goetz and Malin typically work with a different architect for every store to ensure each has its own identity. Brooklyn-based architect Andrew Bernheimer was charged with connecting the Larchmont store to its environs, while at the same time making it utterly identifiable. His solution: A modular merchandising display that follows the brand’s minimalist aesthetic and is also an ode to the cheap and efficient Case Study Houses developed in Los Angeles after World War II. A wood table from the 1890s runs the length of the store. “I love the contextual tension between old and new,” says Goetz. The clean, gray exterior is broken up with a glass door and a peek-a-boo window filled with products.
Malin and Goetz have plans for more stores, including in Chicago, San Francisco and Boston, but want to take their time to figure out exactly how and where to fit into the cities they enter. One thing’s for sure: Don’t expect to find them in a mall. Says Goetz: “We understand shopping centers. It’s easy. It’s convenient. That being said, it’s not our brand. We believe in the street.”
238 North Larchmont Boulevard; Tel: 323-391-1884
Not Found could refer to the hard-to- spot entrance of this appointment-only boutique, which opened a new location in the trendy Daikanyama neighborhood in January. But, says owner and manager Koyo Oikawa, it actually refers to the store’s merchandise.
“The name means a place where you can find things that you normally can’t find [elsewhere],” says Oikawa, explaining that Not Found originally carried several brands, but about two years ago he made the decision to sell only the Japanese streetwear label Mastermind. Oikawa says the reasoning behind this has mostly to do with the fact that Mastermind doesn’t have its own shop in Japan. The line is sold at department stores and multi-brand boutiques, but is so popular and stock is so limited that people are often forced to stand in line outside just to get their hands on their favorite pieces.
Oikawa says he wanted to create a place where customers can shop for Mastermind in a relaxed, slow way, without feeling any pressure. What really sets Not Found apart is the one-on-one, personalized service. While Oikawa says that generally there is a staff member present during store hours in case of a walk-in, customers are asked to make an appointment in order to get the best shopping experience possible. Most days the store has two to three appointments, but on the first day a collection goes on sale there can be up to 50.
“At those times, the stock dwindles throughout the day, so those with later appointments normally have less to choose from,” Oikawa says. “But for my regular customers, I keep things aside that I think they’ll like. I provide very personal service, which is quite demanding to do.”
Located in the basement of a gray concrete building, Not Found has no sign and most people who pass by have no idea it even exists. Upon entering, customers find themselves in a long, narrow space with dark walls and floors and surprisingly high ceilings. Products on sale range from cobranded Mastermind Carhartt T-shirts for $86.50 to a rabbit fur–lined leather jacket for $12,468. Not Found also gets many limited edition items that aren’t available anywhere else, such as a pair of double-waistband jeans for $1,374 and a line of made-to-order suits ranging from $2,423 to $3,029.
But while the cult-like popularity of Mastermind may be good for business now, its designer has already announced that the brand will end next year, a fact of which Oikawa says he was well aware before he bought the store. So what does he plan to do once there are no more Mastermind products for him to sell?
“I’m going to use this space for a fitness club,” he says with a laugh.
Barbizon 75, Level B1, 9-3 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku; Tel: +81-3-6416-7055
HEMA, the northern European cheap and cheerful general store, has launched its high-traffic concept in France. HEMA’s aim “is to bring joy from basic products of daily life,” says Anthony Giron, the general merchandise manager for France. To that end, the 780-square-foot locale, in Paris’ Gare du Nord train station, is chockablock with colorful HEMA merchandise divided into three categories: food, office and beauty.
The cosmetics offer spans approximately 500 stockkeeping units, ranging from eye shadow, mascara, lipstick and gloss to nail polish (a bestseller), bronzing powder and various accessories. “You need to be daily relevant,” says Giron, of the product mix. Prices for beauty items range from just over $1 to around $12. “It’s basically one-third of what you would find for national brands,” says Giron. Personal care items, such as soap and deodorant, round out the mix.
There is something, indeed, for everybody. Wander around and find heart-shaped stickers, packets of highlighters, biscuits, paper napkins and wrapping paper. In all, there are approximately 1,250 sku’s in the store. Amsterdam-based HEMA, whose typical stores outside of train stations cover about 5,000 square feet and contain approximately 5,000 sku’s, has locations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France.
112 Rue de Maubeuge; Tel: +33-1-5316-1012
Five and Ten
Five and Ten had been open only 10 days when co-owner Brian Bolke realized he had a problem: One cash wrap wasn’t enough for the 700-square-foot shop.
“The response has been phenomenal—we’re averaging over 40 transactions a day,” says Bolke, who has added a second register since opening in February. (The store hit its $2,000-a-foot plan within two weeks.)
Colorful fashion and novelty items like quirky John Derian prints are driving sales at Five and Ten, which is the playful offspring of Dallas’ designer emporium Forty Five Ten. Like the mother shop, Five and
Ten caters to the social register. But its mix is more casual, featuring preppie-with-an-edge fashions by the likes of The Row, Thakoon Addition, Kenzo and Aloha Rag. Apothecary, accessories, shoes and gifts round out the mix. While some brands, including Diptyque, are represented in both stores, no items are double exposed.
A retro-style Abici bike stationed out front signals Five and Ten’s approachability. Inside, distressed wood wallpaper looks real until you touch it, and flea market furnishings coincide comfortably with modern steel shelves and racks. It’s an intentionally humble contrast to Forty Five Ten, a minimalist temple of luxury that intimidates some shoppers. “The eclectic mix and the way we decorated it really appeals to people. They like the faux funkiness of it all,” Bolke says. “It gives customers a real sense of discovery.
“The idea is they can drop in anytime and grab something,” he continues. “There will be something new all the time.”
60 Highland Park Village; Tel: 214-252-0510
Too Cool For School
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Too Cool For School, the not-yet three-year-old beauty label from Korean cosmetics chain TodaCosa, is mushrooming fast inside and outside the country thanks to its very unique approach. The brand, which expanded from two to 15 shops over the last year, plans to double its presence at home and open five stores in Indonesia this year. Negotiations are underway in China and Japan, and a boutique is set to debut in New York’s SoHo neighborhood next year. Too Cool’s newest boutique, in Seoul’s famous Sinchon shopping and university district, epitomizes its quirky approach. The design of the products plays on school supplies. The Art Class Line features Crayola-inspired lip liners in unique colors like mint and yellow, as well as the more common pink, orange and red ($5.35 each), while blush ($7.15) is squeezed out from a paint tube. Eye shadows come in a Lego-esque palette that clicks together. The inspiration for the boutique’s decor is more sinister, based on the workshop ambience from the film Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, about an obsessive French perfumer. Colorful illustrations by Anke Weckmann complete the mix. “We make and sell ideas rather than cosmetics,” says Lee Minsoo, general manager of Too Cool, which doesn’t advertise but instead campaigns against plastic surgery based on its philosophy of targeting the mind rather than a specific age group. Also unusual: the small number of staff on hand— usually just two—which the brand believes encourages shoppers to experiment more. “I walked in out of curiosity because it looked fun,” says Cici Xue, a 30-year-old Chinese teacher living in Seoul. “But the problem is they are too cool to use.”
9-20 Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu; Tel: +82-2-3147-2664
Etat Pur, the French online skin care player (whose name in English means Pure State), has opened a brick-and-mortar location on Paris’ Left Bank. “It is a flagship sort of concept store-showroom,” says Philippe Vincent, chief executive officer. “The idea is not to be in lots of different stores at this stage.” The 780-square-foot selling space, which opened in November, carries the brand’s two product lines. There’s the 38-unit collection of Pure Actives (the “A” line) meant for application directly on to skin. The “B” range is comprised of 36 biomimetic-patented cosmetics for everyday use, such as cleansers and moisturizers.
“Nobody has done a fully biomimetic line of products; ours are biomimetic at 98 percent minimum,” explains Vincent, referring to product ingredients that are either identical to what is in skin or mimetic to that in the way they work. “The concept is A plus B,” continues Aurélie Guyoux, Etat Pur scientific business manager, about the approach of combining the products. Customers can obtain a product prescription by filling out a brief questionnaire in-store on iPads or via a diagnosis by the sales staff. Prices range from $7 to $26. A 190-ml. bottle of toner is $10, for instance, while a 15-ml. flacon of hyaluronic acid is $19. The product lineup will grow, first with sun care in June and baby care in the fall, and plans are afoot for geographic expansion, including into Asia, Canada and Brazil. The brand’s strategy also calls for more store openings. In three years, an estimated five to 10 new locations are scheduled to open.
24 Rue du Regard; Tel: +33-1-7577-7950
For the past few decades, urban development projects in Tokyo have tended toward huge modern complexes of steel, glass and concrete. Yoyogi Village, which opened last November, is their antithesis.
Located near one of the city’s largest parks, Yoyogi Village is the brainchild of Japanese music producer Takeshi Kobayashi and DJ Shinichi Osawa. It was conceived as a retail complex and villagelike meeting area with a low environmental impact.
The main entrance to the center is hidden down an obscure side street with no sign on the main road. Once they pass through the gates, visitors find themselves in an oasis of urban greenery. Oddly shaped plants bear plaques explaining their origins, and small shops line a walkway on two levels. The shops are built from shipping containers painted white and stacked atop one another.
The container shops include a bakery, coffee shop, plant store, travel agency and organic-cotton clothing store. Due to their unique construction, each has very limited space and the entire complex gives off an air of understated minimalism. But as shoppers continue along the path toward what appears to be the end of the “village,” the space opens up to reveal the crowning grace of the complex.
Code Kurkku is an organic Italian restaurant situated at the far end of Yoyogi Village. The centerpiece of the space is a large wall covered in a vertical garden of live plants. Adjacent to the restaurant is a bar open at night, with music selected by Kobayashi and Osawa. In addition to the retail and dining venues, Yoyogi Village also boasts Body Kurkku, a relaxation spa that offers not only massages and other treatments, but also studio classes in disciplines such as self-reflexology, detox yoga and mother-and-baby exercise and stretching.
1-28-9 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku; Tel: +81-3-5302-2073