Karen Grant, vice president and global industry analyst of The NPD Group, spends her days analyzing what works—and what doesn’t—at retail. Here, she weighs in on her favorite New York stores to hit for the holidays—beauty not included.
This story first appeared in the December 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
TOYS ‘R’ US
Fantasy, fun, a carnival. Toyland beyond compare! Smile as you enter and are greeted by photographers. Then pause—is that a giant Ferris wheel spanning all three floors? In the middle of this store? Yes, that roar you hear is a dinosaur, a 20-foot animated T. rex. Since this is the land for wee ones, notice the “on-my-terms merchandising,” with open sell islands that begin about 1 foot off the ground and counters for jewelry making and cash registers that are at the height of children (or below the hip of an average adult). Sign up for a tour (if you’re a visitor from a foreign country); if you want to browse unbothered, no worries—easily accessible price scans are located throughout the store and a UPS store is situated right inside for your shipping convenience. (1514 Broadway at 44th Street)
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Who knew one candy could fill up three floors? Play with the interactive displays: Pose with a life-size M&M, enter the “mood sensor” to determine what M&M color you are. If you’re socially conscious, check out the purses created from trash recycled by a factory built in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Mexico City. Have a blast while you shop—from touristy classics and playful statement clothes such as T-shirts (“so over kisses”) to baby gear, games and home goods, and even collectibles. And oh, yeah: candy, candy, candy! Ten-foot-tall disposers organized by color, type and even themes, e.g. “NYC Homerun mix” (navy, white and gray for the Yankees). (1600 Broadway at 48th Street)
A warm embrace of healthy living meets community hub. More than a sports apparel shop, Lululemon is the center of a healthy-living community with components for people to live longer, healthier and more fun lives. There are organized group activities such as jogging and yoga, a recycle center and community boards that highlight fitness and philanthropic events and activities. Consumer feedback is not only welcomed, but encouraged—the store has blackboards in the fitting room area for shoppers to fill in their thoughts and ideas. And, because you are “family,” have your photo featured in the store if you’re a runner in a local race or be a spotlighted ambassador if you embody the lifestyle and live the culture. (1127 Third Avenue at 66th Street)
A sparkling, cool, sophisticated concept store built to allow you to customize and design your personal style of jewelry. Literally hundreds of loose crystals, beads and gems line the walls in a beautiful range of colors. Create your own or use the Personal Stylist program to see what will best suit your style, or choose from one of the already-created pieces. While you wait (yes, your custom design piece is made in a matter of minutes), head to the bar/lounge at the rear of the store or browse the downstairs gallery of accessories and clothes created by famous designers. (499 Broadway)
WHOLE FOODS MARKET
So much more than organic, so much more than a grocery store, it’s a philosophy, a worldview in application. Welcoming you as you descend the escalator is a beautiful array of flowers. Peruse the mini bookstore, health food center, vitamin shop, home decor emporium with exercise equipment, clothing, hair accessories, jewelry, toys.…Select fresh coffee beans by the barrel, bath salts by the pound. Feast at the salad bar, bakery, cheese bar, sushi bar. Cater your next event. Or catch up with a friend at the cafe, complete with a recycle center for everything from paper and plastic to cell phones, batteries and landfill products. Even the shopping carts are well thought out, with smaller-size, double-tiered trays, allowing you to keep your personals secure beneath while shopping. (Columbus Circle)