NEW YORK — Rachel Shechtman has quite the story.
This story first appeared in the June 18, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A self-described “accidental consultant,” she helped Bliss Spa, Gilt Groupe and Toms Shoes with strategic marketing before opening Story, an unconventional boutique in West Chelsea. Designed to be like a magazine, Story’s theme changes every four to eight weeks, with the interior and merchandise getting a complete overhaul. New York Story, for example, bowed last week and features a smorgasbord of New York-made accessories, jewelry, gifts and locally-made food. The Web sites Cool Hunting and New York Mouth are among the sponsors for New York Story. Cool Hunting also helped curate the selection.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s StyleMint label, BaubleBar and Joor are among the previous partners. (As of September, sponsorships will range from $75,000 to $175,000.) Shechtman noted many alliances have stemmed from friendships such as the one with Cool Hunting’s Josh Rubin. Another friend, Tom Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, helped Shechtman set her course. “Blake said to me, ‘Enough with this someday stuff. You’ve got this idea for a store. Do it,’” said Shechtman, who features his label.
After she persuaded graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister to work on her logo and branding, he suggested the company be called Story.
Having lived in the neighborhood for 12 years, Shechtman committed to a 10-year lease for the 2,000-square-foot space at 144 Tenth Avenue. About 1,200 shoppers visit the store on a typical weekend day and Story should break even this year. E-commerce will be introduced this fall and five stores will bow in the next three years, with another New York location, Los Angeles and London being on the top of her list.
Shechtman, who continues to consult with AOL and other companies through her Cube Ventures business, said a few department stores have approached her about developing Story-inspired merchandising in their stores. Recently named among the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, Shechtman will speak at next year’s National Retail Federation conference in New York.
“In the past 20 years, there has been incredible rampant growth in digital and technology,” she said. “But let’s face it, other than Apple, Build-A-Bear and maybe Lululemon, not a whole lot has changed in the physical retail store. J. Crew is nailing it with product. But in terms of experience, not a lot has changed.”
Customers are welcomed by an iPad-armed greeter who uses Lightspeed POS to record e-mail addresses and any purchases they should make. Most Story shoppers spend between $50 and $80. Accessories from TM1985, the label started by Ralph Lauren alumni Tielor McBride, are popular, as well as Baggu bags, Jill Platner bracelets and Malin + Goetz products. To avoid markdowns, all goods sold in Story are taken on consignment. When an item sells out, Shechtman said she is happy to spread the wealth. “If I’m out of a product, I will tell you another place to get it,” she said. “Collaboration is the new competition.”