Concept Shop Guru Rachel Shechtman Tells Her Story

Concept Shop Guru Rachel Shechtman Tells Her Story

(Photo courtesy of Story)

Part retail visionary, part editor, Rachel Shechtman wants to make shopping fun again. Her new Chelsea, New York-based concept store, Story, isn't just about shopping. It's about the experience at the store, which changes its theme every four-to-eight weeks -- merchandise, decor and all. Of course, the gorgeous gifts inside don't hurt.

How did you get involved in "concept" shopping?

I’ve always been fascinated by the creative side of things, and the business side of things. [I got to thinking that] there’s been all this innovation online, but we live in real life. And other than the Apple store, it’s hard to really think of other innovative retail experiences. The concept [of Story] is pretty straightforward. I describe it in simple terms as a magazine that comes to life. Our version of editorial is the merchandise that we curate around a certain story, and the events that we also host during that story. Our publishing side of the business is our sponsorship. Benjamin Moore was the sponsor for our “Color” story, General Electric [sponsored] our “Making Things” story. Our holiday story will be in partnership with Hewlett-Packard and Quirky.

When will the holiday story begin? It opens November 14.

It’s called “Home for the Holidays”—the store’s going to be designed like an apartment. The whole concept is a gift guide that comes to life. So our dining room will be “something for everyone.” Our playroom will be for the kids. In the men’s study, you’ll have a pool table. We’ll have a hot chocolate stand on weekends, and [you can] make your own ice cream.

What have been some of your favorite concepts that you’ve done so far?

My favorite one is whatever the next one is, because all we’re doing is snowballing our learnings and our experiences from each story to become better storytellers. People always say, "who’s your market?" And I always say I only have two rules. Every story needs to appeal to someone between the ages of 5 and 80, and there has to be something for sale that’s $5, and it can go as high as $5,000.

Why do you think pop-up shopping resonates with sponsors and with consumers, especially at the holidays?

If you think about it, we have our mobile devices, and our iPads, and everything around us, and we get new content every two seconds. Everywhere we look, there’s news and there’s information. And yet, you walk into a store on a Monday, and you walk into a store on a Friday, and it’s the exact same experience. So I think what works and resonates for us, is that we’re always changing, even within a story. We will put in new items in week three that weren’t in week one. The truth is that all we’re doing is mirroring behaviors and patterns in other parts of people’s lives in an experience that no one has delivered yet. And I also think that as people have less time—and the ultimate luxury on the planet right now is time—they want more out of their experiences. In the past, you could compete on price, quality and service. I think what people compete on now is surprise and delight, and the experience factor. For us, I think that’s what makes people come back.

As both a retailer and a shopper, what are you seeing for the holidays that is a bit different this year than in years past?

With all this change—you have an election, a horrendous natural disaster—the focus to some degree becomes less on material luxuries and more on the luxury of time and place and people. I think products and experience related to that
will become important.

This story originally appeared in Huffington, in the iTunes App store.

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