NEW YORK — Showfields has brought its distinctive retail format to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, with an 11,500-square-foot, tech-enabled store embedded with a sense of discovery, experiential product presentations and a touch of the surreal.
The theatrics extend to the oversize sculptures of arms, hands, legs and other deconstructed body parts; the signs on the facade reading “Everything Must Stay,” “No Discounts” and “Zero Percent Off” in a tongue-in-cheek play on a store closing, and an interior design emulating a home, replete with a courtyard; a dining room for products for dining and socializing; a foyer with a projected art installation by Ksenia Saloon entitled “Dream”; a lounge, and a kids’ area with high chairs, bibs, toys and educational products.
Called “The House of Showfields,” the store, located at 187 Kent Avenue, opens Wednesday, first for brands on display to preview the setting and then at 3 p.m. when the doors swing open for the public.
“This is a huge statement. We have our strongest lineup of brands we’ve ever had,” said Tal Zvi Nathanel, chief executive officer and cofounder of Showfields.
Launched in 2019, Showfields also has stores in the NoHo section of Manhattan, New York, and in Miami, Florida, as well as a pop up in Los Angeles, California, and is expected to open a 20,000-square-foot store in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., on the site of a former Brooks Bros. Nathanel said he’s planning another four stores for next year but isn’t ready to reveal the locations. Earlier this year, he told WWD that to support the expansion, he raised $20 million with Hanaco Ventures, Swan and Legend Ventures, MUFG Capital and some other sources.
“The mission of Showfields is to bring inspiration and create a space that is both elevated and inclusive, where everybody is welcome,” Nathanel said.
For Williamsburg, “We went deeper by creating this concept of a house. We wanted to bring inspiration to people’s day-to-day existence, and show them a lifestyle that is within reach.” Showfields will also be targeting a younger demographic in Williamsburg, which in recent years has become gentrified with singles, young couples and an influx of hip fashion stores.
“We are evolving our other stores to this concept, this idea of a house. Instead of just showing products and telling their brand stories, we are trying to give context. You have a journey through a house, each room featuring different products. It’s experiential with a lot of moments where you can sample stuff.” It’s not about just placing products on a shelf or a rack, he suggested.
“The house is the framework. In a post-COVID-19 universe, people learned that the house is everything. The house is an office. It’s where we exercise. A house is where we hang out. Looking at it from that perspective actually opens you up to all the categories, so we have wellness, dining, fashion, beauty, tech, all types of categories. That’s why it’s a lifestyle store.”
It’s a brick-and-mortar format where the architecture and interior design, inspired by the Williamsburg neighborhood, are as important as the products being sold. There’s lots of color, Venetian plaster walls, and rooms separated by arched entrances, lending some mystery to what lies ahead.
“Everything is done by artisans and local craftsmen. Nothing is fabricated. For example, this crazy, snake-like looking table in front of us looks like marble but it’s actually hand-painted to look like marble. It’s literally a piece of art,” Nathanel said as he proceeded through the foyer. “When we open a store, we give a lot of room for local vendors; the space is built by over 100 artists, craftsmen, designers, an art installation, the walls, lights. It’s not like working with agencies. Everything is handmade, and most of it is going to be reused.”
On the technology side, Showfield’s has an app called “Magic Wand” where customers can scan and learn about products and the brand story behind them. What’s more unusual about the app is it enables shoppers in the store to unlock a lower price available only at the store. “It’s 10 percent lower always compared to anywhere else. Why? Because you are there. You made the effort to come,” Nathanel said. “You learned. You spoke to an expert. You understand the product and you experienced it.”
Acknowledging that 10 percent isn’t much of a discount, Nathanel said, “We are not a discount store. It’s about making a statement and to make sure that if you are already here, you have all the more reason to walk out with a product.”
The Brooklyn store has proprietary technology not only for sales data but also for brands to learn which customers saw their products in the store and ended up interacting with the brand’s website and possibly making a purchase online. That’s part of Showfields’ “dashboard” of data for brands, that seems granular. Sensors and point-of-sale software gather sales figures, traffic figures, customers’ gender, whether they touch and engage with products or just pass by, among other types of data. “On the back end, because of the app, we enable brands to measure execution,” Nathanel said. “We believe that retail should be viewed as a customer acquisition channel, not as a point of sale.”
Showfields doesn’t operate with a wholesale model. The store doesn’t buy product. Instead, for brands to display in the store, Nathanel said Showfields has “lowered the barriers of entry,” meaning it costs less for them. “This is the most affordable and accessible way for us to democratize retail, to be inclusive to customers with an elevated experience, but also to make it inclusive for brands. A brand could display two or three skus and get charged the lowest rate, or a few dozen skus for a fuller brand statement, and get charged the highest rate.
“Before, $40,000 or $50,000 would be charged, on average, for a brand to be presented in a Showfields store for six months. For the Brooklyn store, it actually starts around $12,000 for a six-month ‘campaign.'” Snowfields stores overhaul their merchandising every six months, and offers brands three campaign levels at different rates, depending on the scope of the presentation.
Of the 70 or so brands inside Showfields, Lush and its Sleepy line occupy about 300 square feet in the “guest house.” Lush has the largest dedicated space in the store.
The “sand box” section features a partnership between Apartment Therapy, a lifestyle media company, and Pinterest.
In the dining room, shoppers can find everything from artisan-crafted table settings from Casafina, to Omakase Berries from Oishii.
Throughout, there are home and design brands such as Oke Art, Pura and WeiBi Concepts. Shoppers can also find gear, toys and other children’s products. Lalo, Piccolina and Banwood are just some of the family-oriented brands.
More than a dozen wellness and self care brands are featured, including Flamingo body care, mind-body wellness brand Wthn, cannabis brand Dad Grass and Gussi Hair, for at-home keratin products for all hair types.
Generally, Showfields emphasizes emerging, mission-driven brands, while also carrying growth and heritage brands. The store is geared to be, as Nathanel has said, “more experiential, curated in a post-COVID-19 era and providing things you couldn’t see anywhere else.”