Retail Trends

Trend Report from NYC: 2022 Retail Concepts

Jan 31, 2022

New York is rightly regarded as the best place in the world to get a sense of what’s coming next for physical retail. So we were delighted to work on some projects around NRF 2022 that gave us an opportunity to do what we love most – and scout the newest and most noteworthy spaces.

And in a time of change and uncertainty for retail, here were the themes and examples that really stood out. 

B2B hits the high street 

The most striking thing about new openings and concepts in NYC is that, in some ways, the most interesting stuff isn’t coming from retail brands. 

Shopify has set up a space to support entrepreneurs but also to inspire high street shoppers to start a business. It recognizes that the high street is a great location to advertise its proposition to people who may or may not know what they do. 

Meanwhile, Brickworks is an incredible space that focuses on attracting architects and designers to visit, as well as regular homeowners. Its goal is to not only sell to homeowners but to build relationships with businesses who might sign big deals on large commercial property projects. 

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Recent studies suggest around 40% of Gen Z and millennials want to start their own business.

And other stores were focusing on supporting businesses too, like Google’s new space underneath its head office in the Meatpacking District. It had several spaces dedicated to supporting businesses - including a conference area that entrepreneurs could book for events. 

Physical space might just represent a really valuable way for B2B businesses to differentiate. After all, recent studies suggest around 40% of Gen Z and millennials want to start their own business. 

A B2B space could engage existing business prospects – or inspire new ones. 

Experiences are starting to be sold 

Many retailers still can’t find a KPI for experience that keeps their CFOs happy. But that may be changing. 

The best example of this is the toy store Camp. Beyond its 5th Avenue Flagship, it’s now generating solid income from experiences alone. 

Art Camp is a brilliant new example. Customers are buying tickets for art classes, Jackson Pollock style paint throwing, tie dying sessions, and dozens of products that emerge from these classes. This standalone space at Columbus Circle is already a huge success. 

Then there’s Camp at Hudson Yards charging customers for crafting sessions and workshops, and regular sponsored events like a recent Paw Patrol experience. 

All of this has snowballed from a commitment to experiential retail - and they are likely approaching a point where the experiences are as profitable as the products themselves.  

Nowhere else has advanced as far as Camp, but there are signs of other brands following suit. Reddy, Petco’s experiential concept, is aiming to build a community of affluent dog owners - and in addition to running free activities for customers, it’s already looking at paid experiences. These may include training and nutrition workshops, and paid memberships. 

Department store 2.0 

While Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom all felt a little stale - and were still struggling to fill vast spaces - there were dozens of smaller, more exciting spaces doing something new with the department store model. 

Showfields is a now well-established example that hosts dozens of new, digital-first brands every month. This creates a constantly changing store that encourages repeat visits. 

B8ta, another established example, also showcases new products and concepts – but with a really innovative model. Its main goal is to collect data – about how successful the products are at engaging customers – and to sell that data to the product owners.  

Soho.Home.Studio is a beautiful space that showcases the furniture from its world-famous hotels. It’s an example of blended retail, where Soho House members get all kinds of benefits. 

Then there’s Neighbourhood Goods, which packs a lot more variety into a very small space than most department stores do across three floors. The merging of product types because of their close proximity actually makes the store far more interesting - you feel like you’re experiencing a series of different lifestyles, rather than brands. 

And Amazon’s pop-up in the Meatpacking District is innovating in this area too. Each month it presents a completely different product theme, and then attracts relevant sponsor brands to host their products. Like B8ta, the attraction is data rather than sales. 

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It was also quietly noticeable that self-checkout solutions are starting to move into the forefront.

Self-checkout matures 

It was also quietly noticeable that self-checkout solutions are starting to move into the forefront. 

In Nike’s 5th Avenue Flagship, self-checkout through the app is now heavily promoted on entrance to each of its five floors. 

Amazon Go continues to thrive in this area, with six dedicated stores in New York. 

Amazon Go has also teamed up with Starbucks to create a concept space. This is partly the regular cashierless Amazon Go format, but at the front of the space there’s also a Starbucks kiosk where you can order online, pick up and check out through the app. 

Uniqlo, just like its London stores, has also invested in supermarket-style self-checkouts that are RFID-enabled and do a fantastic job of cutting queue times. It’s a really smart, hybrid approach that feels entirely appropriate for this kind of business. 

All of this is indicative not necessarily of a dystopian, staff-free retail future, but something more efficient and practical – where retailers calculate the hybrid solutions that make sense within their own, unique customer journeys. 

Great ideas always cut through 

Ultimately, despite some prime locations uptown and downtown lying empty, there is no shortage of new retail concepts in New York. 

As ever, some are pure PR exercises, but elsewhere there are real clues about the future of physical and omnichannel retail

New York is full of great ideas – and great ideas always cut through. So for any retailer or B2B business looking for inspiration, New York is still a fantastic place to gaze into the future.