While showing me the newly open top level of Showfields — a sprawling four-story retail concept in New York City that officially opened its doors in March — co-founder and chief revenue officer Katie Hunt assures me “retail is not dead, it just needs to evolve.”
Nearly every inch of the 14,000 square-foot space, which features an assortment of direct-to-consumer and online-only brands, serves as a testament to a new age in experiential retail. The brainchild of Tal Zvi Nathanel, Showfields succeeded in raising $9 million in initial seed funding and made its official debut after two years of carefully selecting brand partners and renovating the space.
For Nathanel, Showfields felt like a natural extension of his professional background — he spent the first half of his career working on physical experiences as an event planner and art director in Israel before moving to the US to develop mobile payment solutions. Over time, he said he began to spot an opportunity in the retail market to merge physical and digital in a way that better appeals to consumers.
Inspired partially by his mother, who was a professional window dresser, Nathanel set out to develop an interactive store concept that features fledgling direct-to-consumer brands in a brick-and-mortar space. “I’ve always been attracted to the art of visual merchandising and how magical it is that you can stand in front of a window and feel something and the way visuals correlate to that experience,” he said.
The pop-up shop concept, of course, isn’t anything particularly novel — if you walk a block or two in any direction from Showfields, you’ll run smack into the pioneers of this movement like Casper, Away, Allbirds, and Glossier. However, Showfields dazzles with its sheer size, which has continued to grow since it opened in March. In June, Showfields opened up a free co-working space called The Loft and its adjacent rooftop garden, which it recently started renting out for event space.
Hunt, who was formerly the third employee at Warby Parker, said Showfields sets itself apart by serving as a platform for lesser known e-commerce brands that might not have the resources to move into physical retail. The goal is to demonstrate the power of taking an online company offline, to both brands and shoppers.
“Warby has almost a 100 stores now and it’s been very successful, but there aren’t a lot of young brands who get the opportunity to touch retail and see how great it can be,” she said.
I visited Showfields to see if it lives up to its claims of being “the most interesting store in the world.” Here’s what I found.