Rapha at 159 Prince Street is a cycling enthusiast's home
We began at Rapha which is part showroom for their colorful lines and part cafe and clubhouse. One thing apparent about many brands we visited is the ways they are creating and serving communities. This makes their retail offerings more relational than transactional.
Rapha began as luxury apparel for serious cyclists, and they still have the $198 wool-blend shirt as an alternative to all the spandex often found in these stores.
When you walk in, you notice it has a club feel, which is by design. Serious cyclists often meet and start their day with espressos before starting on a ride.
That’s why Rapha has a small coffee bar and clean restrooms - they know their customers!
There's an organized group ride that starts from the store, and they also host the RCC - the New York chapter of the Rapha Cycling Club.
But they also have an app so wherever you are in the world, you can find a ride happening in your area. If you decide to go on your own ride, you can enter it in the app so that other bikers can join you.
This app membership originally cost $200 but during the pandemic, they lowered the price to $100 to gain more members. With over 50,000 cyclists on the app, they also expanded their colorful line to include a lower-priced option and kidswear.
Rapha also has a back patio for events and free wi-fi.
Reddy at 125 Prince Street is selling the full dog experience
Not far from Rapha is Reddy, Petco's exclusive lifestyle brand focused on Millennial dog owners and their pets. As we walked in, they had a dog portrait artist working at a table and displaying his work.
What I liked about this concept is it focuses on only one brand, much like Rapha. From that starting point, they can control everything about the design and layout.
All of the fixtures are recycled, and the small space has an airiness because the clever designers left all of the windows, natural light, and views unblocked.
The color choices of the merchandise, signage, and fixtures all complement each other beautifully. The attention to detail is impressive like with the custom-built dog mannequins. A close inspection of the seams shows they are handmade. Even closer inspection found this little guy, below, created expressly for the display above potty pads.
A store's personality comes from attention to details like these...
Leashes were artistically displayed, but make no mistake, this brand is solely about selling a system of dog products.
From the leashes to various weight dog jackets, and the difference between travel and at-home products, you can see multiple units per transaction as a key goal of this store.
Just like people stores, customization is a big part of reflecting the personality of your pet and most anything can get custom treatment.
Another thing I liked about the Reddy store was all the fresh food in the back. They curated it down to fresh, fresh-frozen, and make your own. It makes it easy to shop and relax - especially with all the brick and refinished floors.
Community is what this place is all about ... like including a dog picture wall.
The staff was eager to engage strangers and it was clear they were very proud of their store. Knowing their local market they had staff who could speak multiple languages including Russian and Portuguese.
I cannot say enough about how smartly put together this store is. Reddy will be a serious contender in upscale neighborhoods like Los Gatos, Santa Monica, and other urban neighborhoods.
FARM Rio at 113 Prince Street puts unisex in bold view
Next up was FARM Rio, an artist’s collective of colorful unisex ready-to-wear.
I particularly liked their fitting rooms made out of rope and the sand under their garments to give shoppers the feeling of their Brazilian beaches.
All of the associates were wearing the garments, which was a plus. They tell me this is a target store for international visitors, and you can see why in all the details these artists put into their work and this location.
Roger Dubuis + TheArsenale target the ultra crowd on Wooster Street
This surprising brand collaboration was discovered in SoHo between the luxury watchmaker and the curator of this ICON A5. The watches start around $50,000, and the lightweight aircraft that is also a boat runs around $400,000. This showcase looked like a partnership right out of the Robb Report pages and will ultimately display a collection of TheArsenale apparel.
Allbirds at 73 Spring Street streamlines inventory searches
One thing most shoe stores do is hide their boxes of inventory. But when the salesperson looks for a shoe in the backroom, seconds are lost trying to find the model number and size, which can lead to walkouts.
That's why I loved Allbirds' color-keyed boxes that allow quick identification.
But one store missed it for me...
I also visited the Woolrich NYC SoHo flagship store at 121 Wooster Street, which I found fairly underwhelming. A legacy brand had some of their most colorful products – their blankets – folded and displayed on a shelf under an embroidery machine.
No signs in the store and not much face-out merchandising also seemed a miss for such an important flagship store.
I'm assuming there may have been something relevant about the brand on the carpet with a table on top.
My wrap-up of this SoHo retail visit...
One thing is for sure: brands that can present themselves in innovative ways, like Reddy, and those who can develop a community like Rapha, are the way forward.
These temples to the brand lead to a higher return on investment, a more curated collection to browse, and higher UPT.