When it comes to trends that I find endlessly fascinating, those that are affecting how we shop, consume, and experience brands is one those topics. Watching retail trends and how consumers shopping habits are shifting is of great interest to me. I love seeing young digitally native brands like Allbirds wool sneakers, Margaux comfortable stylish flats, Away Luggage, and Everlane clothing emerge that capture the hearts of minds of non-brand loyal millennials and other early adapters with their great branding, unique value propositions and a compelling charitable component. I find the direct to consumer products space (along with home decor, natch) increasingly fascinating. Some of these newer brands to emerge have a huge fanbase of dedicated followers that like not only the look and feel of the products they are buying, but what a company stands for. Can heritage brands take a page out this new playbook, or is the ship to big to turn around? Ahead, some companies and emerging trends that are going to change the landscape of how we shop, vacation and discover that are worth watching and learning from.
A look at one of the West Elm Hotels model rooms
Companies you wouldn't necessarily expect are getting into the hospitality game. From the first Equinox Hotel, brought to you by Equinox Gym coming to Hudson Yards in 2018, to West Elm targeting authentic cities such as Detroit that speak to their style-aware audience, and Restoration Hardware with it's in-store Three Arts Cafe in its Chicago location, brands are seeing value in having a complete brand experience for their guests. This lifestyle element is starting to be seen across categories, as you will see with my next trend.
Alchemy Works captures the shopping as gallery zeitgeist as an anchor of the downtown LA Arts District scene
"I'll meet you for coffee" is something you may be hearing more of and seeing from home retailers like Crate and Barrel (apparently a cafe is coming over the next year or so) and Restoration Hardware stores, as brands try and think of ways for you to stay, shop, and soak up their environment through curated offerings. Club Monaco did this a few years back when they partnered with Toby's Estate Coffee at their 5th Avenue Flatiron flagship, and we are seeing it with boutique coffee roasters and retailers partnering for the ideal sip and shop hybrid. In the downtown LA Arts District, the cool minimalist concept store Alchemy Works is situated directly next to (and opens up to) Blacktop Coffee, so you can try on Warby Parker sunglasses, and get a caffeine fix for the art outing that is sure to follow. Other retail shops are following suit, giving you a chance to hang out and soak up those shopping vibes.
Brandless products, branded
A new direct to consumer online company launched this week called Brandless. When I first read about it I was like, this is amazing! Two seasoned entrepreneurs, Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler created an e-commerce experience that is likely to upend grocery shopping as we know it. Gotta give credit to Jet (getting their purple boxes incites glee) and Amazon, of course, but this upstart is pulling all the right levers. Everything is $3, packaged in minimalist chic branded packaging AND follows the company values of being organic, non gmo, gluten free, etc. Everyday basics, from cleaning products to supplies and food to fill the pantry, they cover each vertical and everything is yes, $3! The packages look great, but the products are also familiar and comfortable, since most are things we use on a daily basis, just from other brands with a vastly bigger market presence (at the moment). Focusing on "quality, transparency and community-driven values" they own the entire process, and cut out the excess branding and grocery shelf costs companies usually bake into their product costs, allowing items to be affordably priced for a pretty decent caliber product. My first inclination here was, oh, ok, wow this startup company already has an exit strategy in place to sell to Amazon, tomorrow! That's how well thought out this company seems to be-- ripe for the experience seeking, non-brand loyal millennial crowd. Check it out, it may well become your new virtual grocer.