Story is not your typical brick-and-mortar operation. Since opening in December 2011, the 2000-square-foot retail concept store has hosted over 28 “stories,” — wherein every four to eight weeks, the space takes on a new theme and restocks merchandise accordingly — and worked with over 200 brands, spanning from up-and-coming independent designers to Fortune 500 companies.
“Story is the space that has the mentality of a magazine — we reinvent it every three to eight weeks like a gallery, and we sell things like a store,” said founder Rachel Shechtman. “ Our theory is that retail can be a media channel. Magazines tell stories by taking pictures and writing articles. We tell stories by curating merchandise around a certain theme and having events that bring it to life.”
The success of the concept, Shechtman argued, lies within this unconventional store mentality. “Story is a store that changes, but all stores must change,” she said. “The old paradigm is about a place that sells things. The new paradigm is an experience that sells things….Why are we still talking about brick-and-mortar in terms of sales per-square-foot? I propose experience per-square-foot.”
Technology plays a large role in providing the ‘Story’ experience to customers. “We try to seamlessly integrate it into the store so that it feels natural, but it’s not an experience that they can get on their couch,” said Shechtman, adding, “Its not just engaging for consumers on the front end — there are back-end analytics for us.”
At the center of Story, Shechtman said, lays three core principles: content, commerce and community. “Content is about giving people new things to discover, and giving brands the new opportunity to test new things,” she said. “Commerce is about being agile. We’re constantly providing merchandise as content.”
To keep both the content and commerce fresh, Story embarks on many partnerships. Recently, for example, they teamed with illustrator Donald Robertson on a full-store concept. “He turned the store into a living gallery, and what we did was create over 40 exclusive products in less than eight weeks,” she said. “There was a myriad of private-label products that started at $2, up to collaborations with Urbanears or a $15,000 exclusive Rolex.”
The store also capitalized on the collaboration to get other brands involved, such as Diet Coke and Canada Goose. “They had long wanted to work with Donald, and really wanted to get their brand out there so they weren’t just known for the classic black jacket with the fur hood,” Shechtman said of the latter company. “We brought in a bunch of different colors and Donald used them as a canvas, and it became both living content and commerce for the launch of their Web site just a few weeks ago. By being agile in merchandising, we are helping brands move faster.”
Beyond working with mainstream brands, Story also holds a recurring pitch night, where independent designers can come and present their goods for consideration. “What we’re doing is creating unexpected opportunities for people,” said Shechtman. “We’re used to Kickstarter and Etsy, which is about democratizing access for all of these makers and designers and small brands.”
Shechtman highlighted several success stories of brands that had been discovered during a pitch night, such as jewelry designer Beth Macri, whose necklace was soon after worn by Whoopi Goldberg and went on to do six figures in her first year of business, and Hella Bitters, a cocktail accessory line based in Brooklyn, the creators of whom, after meeting with American Express executives at one of Story’s networking events, now star in the company’s national ads.
“We’re creating unexpected opportunities for people and democratizing discovery access for large brands and small,” Shechtman said.