Today’s retailers try to tell a story that shoppers can “read,” using the grammar of visual merchandising, interior design and displays, and the products themselves. Consumers may not be aware of all the nuances at work, but they know when a shopping journey makes sense to them. Neighborhood Goods is attempting to tell a story, but with a bigger and more complex set of building blocks: a changing collection of pop-up stores, all housed under one roof.
Neighborhood Goods’ reinvention of the traditional department store will debut on Nov. 17 in Plano, Texas, where it will showcase a rotating collection of brands across categories including fashion, accessories, beauty, home decor, family, wellness and consumer tech.
To attract customers and encourage them to stay longer in the space, Neighborhood Goods will:
- Host a restaurant called Prim & Proper in cooperation with a local culinary innovation lab;
- Hold daily event programming that will complement individual retailers’ experiential offerings;
- Publish a magazine and podcast that highlight local retailers, restaurants and entrepreneurs; and
- Decorate the communal space with custom artwork.
The store aims to take the same approach many direct-to-consumer retailers use for their digital presence: creating a unique narrative around the products being sold, according to Neighborhood Goods Co-Founder and CEO Matt Alexander. Each brand will be given the space to stand out and tell its own story, but there won’t be walls between sections — letting the individual retailers meld into a single, continuous experience.
“The core principle that we settled on was a focus on creating a more dignified, communal, sociable, friendly and approachable concept in the retail space,” said Alexander in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The goal is to shed some of that traditional pretentiousness that you can often see from the higher end of retail — and also some of the elements of self-consciousness and confusion that come from some retail experiences, where you feel like the entirety of the experience is built around trying to extract dollars from your wallet in a very overt way.”
Curated Layouts, Shorter Leases Encourage Experimentation
The layout is designed to make each visit a narrative journey for shoppers, for example by placing similar brands next to each other. Some areas will be based around a theme such as bedrooms, allowing multiple brands to share a single space with complementary products to enhance the overall display.
“They benefit from brand adjacency, which is where you see another similarity between us and traditional retail,” said Alexander. “In the fashion industry, one of the questions you would ask a potential wholesale channel is less about their potential sales, and much more about who you might be positioned next to on a shelf. That’s certainly what we’ve been thinking about.”
The constituent retailers won’t be tied to long-term leases, giving them more leeway to experiment with how they display their products, according to Alexander. Signing up for a three-month or one-year tenure is much less expensive than a 10-year commitment, giving brands an opportunity to take risks that might not be possible in a traditional retail space.
“A lot of the experience comes from how we’re talking to these brands and what we’re encouraging them to think about,” said Alexander. “Insofar as we’re using the space to capture data around customer behavior, and insofar as we’re trying to create areas within [the space] where people can spend time, we’re also trying to come up with a way we can introduce a product or a brand in a way that feels really natural, really interesting and really gives you a good reason to visit.”
Retailers pay a monthly fee for their space in the store, which includes the costs of staffing, education, editorial and design for the brand. Initial partners include:
- Stadium Goods, a sneaker and streetwear marketplace;
- The Inside, a direct-to-consumer home furnishings brand
- Desmond & Dempsey, a UK-based luxury pajama brand;
- Allswell, a direct-to-consumer mattress and bedding brand;
- Draper James, a Southern-inspired lifestyle brand by Reese Witherspoon;
- Primary, a colorful children’s clothing brand;
- hims, a men's wellness brand focused on personal care;
- Hubble, an affordable contact lens brand;
- Sonos, a multi-room wireless home audio brand;
- LOLI Beauty, a zero-waste, organic beauty brand; and
- The Residency, Neighborhood Goods’ own retail concept, which curates products from new, local and pilot brands.
Food, Events And Products Create Compelling Narratives
Neighborhood Goods will have some ongoing elements in addition to its changing roster of pop-up stores. A restaurant called Prim & Proper will be located at the center of the store and will collaborate with Front Burner Restaurants, a culinary innovation lab for Dallas-based brands, to provide shoppers with food and drinks. The eatery will use custom cookware from Made In that will be available for purchase at The Residency.
Additionally, live events will give brands an opportunity to show off their products and give customers more reasons to visit. Some retailers will include their own experiential offerings.
Neighborhood Goods also will extend the storytelling focus outside the retail space in the form of a magazine and a podcast. The editorial content will include articles about local stores, restaurants and brands, while the podcast will feature entrepreneurs and investors with tales about the industry. By engaging in storytelling both in-store and outside, Neighborhood Goods is aiming to generate compelling narratives across the entire shopping experience.
“Ultimately, retail is about human anxiety and who they want to be,” said Alexander. “They want to buy these products, often because they want to buy into a particular identity or enforce a particular identity. You’re not able to do that if you don’t have a story about those products.”