Eva Pascoe | Digital Retailer

Sipping in Samsung

Carly Simon’s song ‘You are so vain’ was on my mind during our bimonthly retail insights trip to NY. Coffee really is our team’s water and so it is the case for many rushed city dwellers. New Yorkers, Londoners or Berliners tend to march thru their cities with a coffee cup in one hand and phone in the other, slurping their black nectar and snapping photos worthy of sharing on Instagram.

Samsung is catching on this new combo and rolling out the in-store coffee bars plus Instagram-traps starting with their New York Chelsea store. New additions of not one but 3 dramatic large backgrounds to take a selfie against is drawing in the crowd, with extra options to express yourself via creatively personalising your very own phone case or creating a DJ-background set from a 3d drawing panel in a Basquiat style. To make the customers feel even more creative, Samsung added a cool coffee shop with handsome baristas (our was a fit young dancer from Dublin!). As waiting time for Samsung genius can be long, this combination of smell and taste made us happy, staying longer and buying things we did not need (personalised cases anyone?) Apple, eat your heart out.

Turning heads and smelling coffee

‘Customers typically spend 25min to 1 hour in this shop’ says  Google about Turntable Lab NY and that is all you need to know. Located on the first floor on 10th Street in East Village, it is a heaven for vinyl fans but also a good spot for non DJ partners or parents. Not just for budding DJs, Turntable Lab is a 20 year old East Village institution that has just got better for adding a small coffee bar. Marrying hi-fi gear with a great music (Hip Hop, R&D and Reagge but also older classics)  and an aroma of fresh coffee this store is as visually dazzling as it is satisfying on the palate. Other vinyl store need to add coffee now.

Coffee Dessert so you know it is good news

The death of book shops is greatly exaggerated as one of the grandest of them, Barnes and Noble on Union Square is thriving. More of a giant coffee shop with books and toys added rather than just a bookshop, the store pulls in top crowds for a daily roster of book launches and acts as a venue for local publishing houses. We were lucky to join Julian Lennon on Earth Day, launching his new book Love Earth to a packed audience of excited music fans and environmentalists with their Instagram-ready phones in hand. After inspiring talk from surprisingly English-sounding Julian, who was promoting green causes for almost 20 years, we then had a great Americano in the café, humming Savoy Truffle by Julian’s dad John and George Harrison. The store is huge, with 4 floors but using it’s size to advantage and it has regained their loyal customers’ trust. Way to go.

Sometimes I sound like gravel and sometimes like coffee and cream – Nina Simone

The colourful singer’s intensity looms large over this year’s New York as it is all about 70s retro with Macy’s store leading the way. Their Rainbow Light tunnel in the pop up by Story is an LSD trip without the pills, a total sensual explosion that just gets more intense as you go through the visual and audio experience.

Macy’s also has Lite Brite neon display and colour collections of bits-and-pieces, similar to Tiger stores but more arty and at somewhat higher prices. But after your sensual experience with the pop up, the wallet opens easily. Instagram heaven for all ages including nostalgic hippy parents. Macy’s has also staged a magnificent 1 week long Flower Festival called Paraiso, inspired by galactic travels, providing exotic and spacey Instagram backgrounds for the visitors.

The coffee bar was near if the customers needed to recover from the onslaught of colour and fragrance and calm down in a rosteria. The store was packed thru the day and evening, so Macy’s recovery is on the way up.
Pop up was playing I want a little sugar in my bowl by Nina Simone, a perfect tune to keep the shoppers smooth and happy.

Tap to enter

As Millennials and increasingly Generation Z are known to spend up to 8 hours per day on their mobile phones, new formats of fashion stores are taking advantage. Reformation, a fashion store in Soho NY has only one sample of each (sustainable) fashion item on the well-spaced racks. To get the correct size, girls have to tap a large screen on the wall, at eye –level height.

Tapping allows selection of garment and size/colour. Then a long wait (average 20 minutes but can be longer!) the customer is invited to a fitting room, where as if by magic, through a back door to the cupboard, the correct garments appear.

The fitting session can take time but other customers are waiting patiently sitting in the lobby, sipping coffee and swiping thru their social media feed. Reformation has hit on a perfect formula, and Sexy Time option of lights in the fitting room helps to smooth over the shock of the prices. But the coffee is excellent and fashion sustainable. Premium well deserved.

Sezane – a whiff of original coffee from the Left Bank

Parisians invented coffee – or at least perfected the location where to drink it – so no surprise that a romantic French brand fashion pop up by Sezane in NY would also bring along typical Left Bank coffee tables all the way from Paris.

Sezane took over a large store on Elizabeth Street in the heart of Nolita, transforming it beautifully into a piece of Gaelic charm on the streets of New York. This pop up managed to get a licence for the outdoors table so while the girls are shopping inside in a spacious, fabulously decorated store, the partners can take their coffee outside and watch the world go by, drinking original French-roasted coffee. The store manages to magic up the real atmosphere of Left Bank and the clothes are exquisite too, to be enjoyed with Café on the Left Bank by Wings – not a very PC song but very fitting.


Great coffee bar and Instagram-friendly venues will get even the most Netflix-happy Millennial out of her cocooning apartment and into your store. Colour, frequent change of themes, a touch of new tech, handsome barista and hey presto, retail is great again.

Next month we will be in Sevilla and Barcelona, bringing you insights from what Spanish Generation Z expects from retailers. Dare I say, it will involve a cortado or two!

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