Showfields, the three-level experiential department store in the NoHo neighborhood of Manhattan that calls itself part retail store, part art exhibition, has reopened its doors (and its famous entry slide) after a months-long shutdown due to Covid-19.
But the retailer hasn’t been sitting idle during the pandemic. Instead, like so many other brands and retailers, Showfields built up its online presence and created virtual events, like live product shows, and built up innovative tech solutions to prepare for its physical reopening. Those changes have allowed Showfields to continue its mission of creating a one-of-a-kind shopping experience with expert curation of emerging artists and brands since opening its doors in December 2018.
“We look at Showfields as a platform,” said co-founder and CEO Tal Zvi Nathanel. “Brands and artists come to us in order to have a more efficient, better, easier way [and] meaningful way to get in front of customers. And customers come to us because they trust our editorial voice.”
Because of that mindset and the technology Showfields already employed at its physical stores to ensure a seamless shopping experience, moving to a digital platform proved to be a natural transition. Rather than scrambling to pivot, Nathanel saw the pandemic as an opportunity to “grow to a different place.”
Adding virtual events with curators and artists also provided a new way for consumers to engage with brands and creators, simulating the in-store experience to some extent while also providing a new way for consumers in any city to engage personally with the retailer.
In the store, customers engage with a curator’s collection in the space they designed to display those pieces. In the virtual version, which serve as shoppable livestream events, a curator talks through their collection from their home or studio, presenting and explaining each piece and answering questions as they come in through the chatroom.
But those features aren’t going anywhere just because the store has opened back up. Nathanel said after launching the virtual curations, they were such a hit that he wished they’d started them before the pandemic.
Currently, Showfields is open at around 25% of its usual capacity, and the store has implemented several new features to ensure a safe shopping experience. Hand sanitizer stations are available throughout the store, masks are required, and the entire store is disinfected hourly in addition to a nightly deep clean.
The retailer launched a new app called the Magic Wand, which allows customers to take an interactive tour of the store on their smartphone, getting exclusive information about a brand or product by tapping the magic wand icon next to each product. Users can then save their favorites, allowing them to build a virtual cart as they move physically through the store for a completely contactless experience.
Customers can choose between a free guided or self-guided shopping experience, depending on what level of contact they’re comfortable with. If desired, they can book an hour slot for free in the morning to have the store to themselves, Nathanel said, or book a dinner on Showfields’ private rooftop terrace (weather permitting) with up to six people.
Showfields has also adapted with the cultural conversation, providing ways for artists and curators to donate a portion of proceeds from certain collections to food banks or social movements like Black Lives Matter.
The speed with which the cultural conversation and consumers’ needs have evolved over the course of the last few months only further demonstrates the value that Showfields can bring to brands and artists, said Nathanel. After the first wave of Black Lives Matter protests at the end of May, Showfields was quickly able to create more mission-driven curations due to the hundreds of brands and artists it had in its network.
Still, the pandemic has slowed some things down for Showfields. Its second location, which was slated to open in June, has been pushed to sometime this fall.
But Nathanel stressed that despite the unusual circumstances facing retail at the moment, there’s still a strong appetite for in-person shopping experiences among consumers. Showfields is planning to expand to more “tier one” cities starting next year, he said.