Last week, I finally went to the Shinola
store in Tribeca. For those who are unfamiliar, Shinola is a luxury watch brand based in Detroit, Michigan. They embrace U.S. based manufacturing and are helping to revitalize the Detroit economy, while providing an exceptional product to customers. They are getting quite a bit of press and attention recently. My brother, Michael, now works at their corporate HQ, so I am definitely biased and have personal ties to the company, but I think they are doing some impressive work!
Currently they operate Shinola stores in NY and Detroit and are slated to open a bunch more this year. Their products are also carried by a number of retailers like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Nordstrom and many many more smaller retailers, boutiques and jewelers. They also have their own e-commerce site, shinola.com.
So as I mentioned I finally made it to check out the Shinola store in Tribeca last week. I had such a positive store experience that I wanted to share a bit about my visit…
The store itself is a VERY cool space. Located on Franklin street, in a hip area of Tribeca, when you first walk in there’s a coffee bar operated by The Smile. I’ve been to The Smile’s Soho location multiple times and it’s a very cool cafe/restaurant, known for being very “in” — so automatically there’s some unique cache to the experience, not to mention the opportunity to caffeinate or get a treat when you set foot in the store…
Then, the store itself has super high ceilings and feels very open, like a lofty space. They have NY corporate offices that are actually upstairs from the store. It conveys a feeling of hipness, yet in a warm and not offputting way. There are bikes hanging in various spots and interesting displays of both Shinola merchandise as well as other brands that are curated — all are items manufactured in the U.S.A. with a similar aesthetic and sensibility. The store kind of felt like being a museum with interesting things to discover and explore around each bend.
I was greeted very quickly upon entry by two of the sales associates who spotted me wearing my “Mini Runwell” watch and struck up conversation right away. Jocelyn was incredibly charming, warm and nice and spent a lot of time with me, showing me around the store and sharing the back-story of various products and tips about the watches and bands. She showed me the women’s watches along the back wall and helped me try on a bunch of colors of The Birdy, which I am eying as my next Shinola purchase.
I then wandered the store myself and decided to purchase a few journals. I went to check out — which is also nice they just use an iphone type set-up and don’t have a monstrous check-out kiosk/counter. Instead it felt really seamless and pleasant. Jocelyn then asked me if I wanted the journals monogrammed (a complimentary service) and I was so excited and thought this was super unique!
So, I then watched her put them through a huge machine, akin to a letterpress machine. She did two for my husband (RSF) and two for me (TLF). I got to choose whether I wanted gold vs. silver and the size/placement of the lettering. It was a really unique process to watch and to be part of the “making” of these products, staying true to the Shinola spirit.
Overall, my visit was much more of an ‘experience’ than just ‘transactional’ focused. I left feeling so intrigued by the brand, and re-energized that physical retail stores really CAN have value-add and create interesting experiences rather than just be a nuisance… (I so often prefer to shop online that I often dread setting foot into a real store – too often the sales people and environment can be a turnoff or let-down).
A few other random reflections —
– Without my new “friend” Jocelyn to show me the ropes, I may have missed the women’s watches myself, particularly if I was doing a quick pass-through the store. At first, I only saw the men’s watches on the center table. This may be intentional on their part — I am guessing a much larger % of their business is Men’s watches, or perhaps they think that women troll the perimeter of a store more and uncover items more easily. But personally I almost didn’t see these!
– Speaking of mens vs. women’s, I thought the whole store has more of a Men’s vibe to it. (This isn’t a bad thing). Just interesting to me to observe how a store that appeals/sells both genders skews male in feeling (darker colors, bold boxy letters, more mens merchandise, etc). Probably more important to attract rather than turn off men, while women who wear Shinola are more “downtown” in aesthetic and comfortable in these types of environments / don’t need super feminine touches.
– I thought the monogram services are actually a big draw and could be promoted to encourage the purchase of journals (or other items too)! I think there’s opportunity to visually display journals with initials on them near the blank ones so customers can see this is possible to have done. (Right now, the salespeople just told me about it, or I wouldn’t have known). I think this tactic may be intentional so they don’t get over-run and can control when they offer the service (not mention it if they are too busy at the moment, and make it seem like more of a “secret” giving you a feeling of being an insider when you are offered this service)… but I think it would be excite people by showcasing it more prominently and possibly result in more journal sales.
– Speaking of the personalization, after getting my monograms applied to the journals, the next day I interestingly received a promoted Facebook post from Madewell (brand owned by J.Crew) about their monogram services. I thought this was ironic timing — maybe it’s a new trend to offer this type of thing in store… (See below)
– Lastly, Shinola has the bones of a great e-commerce site. Pretty easy to navigate, clear descriptions, vivid imagery and is a great start. However, I do think there’s opportunity to do even more storytelling and weave in more editorial on the site. When you click “our story” for instance, you can watch a video, but it would be nice to have a written story too if you aren’t in the mood for watching a clip. Some of the great press stories would be nice to include and highlight. I could also see opportunity to showcase how real people (customers) are wearing their Shinolas — so others can get styling ideas from their photos. Shinola includes this regularly on Instagram, but it would be cool to incorporate this imagery on the site itself. Lastly, featuring some of the amazing work and partnerships they are doing in the city of Detroit, like the clocks they have around the city.
All in all though , a fantastic and impressive store experience and I was excited to share!