Camp means different things to different people. For kids at sleepaway camp, one of the best days of the summer is when parents, grandparents and siblings visit to partake in daily activities such as color wars and tie-dying and drop off care packages containing edible food. The retail version of Camp is hoping to provide something for the whole family in a similar vein, like a never-ending visitors’ day.
The 10,000-square-foot Camp flagship at 110 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan’s Flatiron District aims to please both children and adults by combining shopping and play throughout the space and a new Camp theme every eight to 12 weeks.
Campers enter the flagship through the canteen, which sells a little bit of everything like the type of general store you’d find in the Adirondacks with a camp named Echo Lake or Hidden Lake in close proximity. The canteen sells apparel, toys, books, gifts and everyday supplies. Treats such as Crack Pie and B’day Truffles as well as Camp-themed sundaes exclusive to the location are served through a partnership with Milk Bar, along with Counter Culture coffee.
A secret magic door leads to the experiential side of the concept with camp-centric activities such as arts and crafts, sports, dance and theater. Called Base Camp, it’s sponsored by Mastercard, which designates it “a priceless experience.” Other partners include Kids Made Modern, crafts and room decor; Lick-a-Bubble; Rockets of Awesome, subscription boxes for kids, and Primary, colorful basics for babies and children.
Camp integrates the activities beyond the secret door with commerce following a Disney World-type mind-set that positions purchasing opportunities next to high-traffic attractions. The retailer is hoping consumers pick up a memento of their stay while waiting to learn how to make DIY ducktape wallets, for example. Those who don’t want to wait can buy tickets to skip the line.
Ben Kaufman, chief commerce officer at BuzzFeed, came up with the idea for Camp. The retailer is backed by BuzzFeed, along with other investors.
“I actually got kicked out of camp,” Kaufman said, adding that he no longer remembers the reason. “I had gone to that camp for seven years straight and was a know-it-all. Camp provided us with the ever-changing nature of our experience. Some people went to nerdy camp and some people think of camp as camping in the outdoors.”
There are plenty of camp lovers and the experience of living away from home at a young age creates strong bonds and friendships that endure to later into life, which is why Camp works on two levels.
Asked about the parallels between Camp and Story, the retailer founded by Rachel Shechtman who is also brand experience officer of Macy’s, Kaufman said, “Of course, there are similarities. I was an early supporter of Story and an investor, and Rachel is an investor in Camp and is on our board of directors. Rachel and I are great friends and we believe in a similar future.” Asked if Camp would work with Macy’s in the future, he said, “We’re independent and intend to build a lot of Camp stores next year — seven to 10. But, I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
“While Story appeals to both adults and kids, its narratives are not specific to families or kids,” Shechtman said. “Camp is focused on families specifically. There are very few places for families to go that evoke a feeling of play and joy, with a great toy offering, and Camp is an answer to that. People want a higher return on investment for their time. Camp has programming from book readings to fun activities, like a bridge you step on that makes music or a slide that connects one bunk to the next.”
In terms of revenue streams, merchandise includes Camp’s private label apparel collection of basics with the brand’s graphics and sweaters with self-appliqués featuring camp iconography. E-commerce will be rolled out next year, and Kaufman said, “We only intend to send exclusive products online.” Sponsorships are the second-biggest revenue generator, followed by workshops and activities that teach how to make a merit badge or pendant. “Put the taste in lip gloss,” reads the description of a lip gloss tutorial, which costs $25 per child; grown-ups are free.
In addition to an arts and crafts hut, there’s a theater where kids can learn songs from musicals and dance numbers.
“Families need places to go together,” Kaufman said. “We created four walls with food, play and things. We’re going to change every eight to12 weeks and with each experience we’re going to create a new Milk Bar item each time our themes change. The front of the store is more or less permanent.
“We intend to open a lot of these,” Kaufman added. “The new units will be the same size. We hope we can build a big [chain]. The market for family experiences is pretty thin right now and we’re filling a big void. There are babies being born all over the world and families looking for places to go.”