THE FUTURIST: Who knew turning five could involve so much reflection?
This story first appeared in the March 7, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But for Story, the New York retail concept shop that’s equal parts store and magazine, a retrospective now up through April 9 takes a look at the past 33 installations and partners which have helped create a space that’s been seen as a key to retail’s future.
“In terms of what’s next, I have a passion for thinking about doing things, about reinventing retail and new business models,” said founder and chief executive officer Rachel Shechtman. “I think community and entertainment are two things that need to be a part of the future of retail. So when I think about us growing, it’s how can we take the experience that we had building a community and entertaining and engaging experiences at a local level and make them relevant at a national level?”
Those ideas of community and engagement were particularly apt with Shechtman in downtown Los Angeles over the weekend as one of about 50 speakers for Nasty Gal and Girlboss Media founder Sophia Amoruso’s inaugural Girlboss Rally — which was a hybrid conference, networking and Millennial hangout event that drew more than 500 people.
That sense of community is certainly being tested in all corners of retail, from digital brands building themselves online to large department stores dabbling with their own versions of that. Whether larger, legacy companies can pivot and succeed with a page out of a playbook written by a new generation of entrepreneurs remains to be seen.
“That’s a whole other ballgame,” Shechtman said in an interview on the idea of building community at the department store level. “So here’s the problem. They are public companies so they have to worry about comps. Building community and thinking of ways to monetize community is going to distract them from figuring out how to hit their comps. Is community going to save department stores? Definitely not. Should it be considered as part of the experience — I think in the past price, quality and service are what retailers would think about and those are need-to-haves not nice-to-haves. So it’s just new ingredients for an old recipe is how I look at it.”
A lot needs to happen in department stores, Shechtman said, but the changes required to implement long-term tactics that would ensure viability are 18- to 36-months out — a concept Wall Street hardly has the patience for as the industry undergoes what she called a reset of the landscape.
“It’s unfortunate,” Shechtman said. “I really think it’s unfair and unfortunate because you’re asking an industry to change while the system that determines its value remains unchanged.”