New Brookstone concept brings makers to the mall

Discussion
Photo: Brookstone
May 04, 2018
Matthew Stern

Brookstone, long known at malls as a place to try and maybe even buy massage chairs, desk toys and other techie curios, is launching a new store concept to bring products from indie “makers” to its shelves.

New Brookstone concept brings makers to the mall
Photo: Brookstone

 

Brookstone announced the opening of its first Brookstone Makers Showcase in the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York earlier this month. The new store is dedicated to products funded by Indiegogo campaigns, things created on collaborative invention platform Quirky, and smaller up-and-coming tech brands. The store concept will give customers a chance to interact with the products, just as they do in traditional Brookstone locations. The retailer plans to roll out more of the Makers Showcase stores in the U.S. and China throughout the year.

The launch of the new concept is happening in conjunction with a new online platform, the Brookstone PLUS Innovation & Retail Platform, a network created to help small vendors bring products to market.

In the past few years, other retailers have demonstrated success bringing maker-created curios to their physical shelves.

Last year, Ace Hardware acquired a majority stake in entrepreneur and inventor-focused website The Grommet. The hardware store has tested a rotating assortment of product from The Grommet on in-store displays in select store locations.

In 2016, Lowe’s Hardware began partnering with try-and-buy tech showroom B8ta to open SmartSpot concept shops within the DIY chain’s stores. In Lowe’s and B8ta’s standalone stores, the showroom enables small, sometimes online-only vendors to demo and sell their products in a physical retail environment.

But Brookstone, unlike Lowe’s or Ace Hardware, is a mall-based business, thereby challenged with the decline in foot traffic malls are experiencing.

The mall where Brookstone is launching the new concept is, however, has begun to establish a reputation for innovation, and perhaps Makers Showcase can serve as another draw. Last year Roosevelt Field Mall launched its well-received Edit@Roosevelt Field concept — a space dedicated to hosting a rotating lineup of pop-ups, mainly for online-only brands.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will a mall-based brand like Brookstone be able to reinvigorate itself with a concept that offers products from small inventors like the Makers Showcase? Should Brookstone consider standalone Showcase stores outside of malls?

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"I like this idea very much, but in my opinion it brings with it a mandate to deliver fresh, updated assortments on a very regular basis."
"The end-game here has to be a purchase or all this innovation is for naught."
"...they should consider placing these concept stores in major urban cities where early adopters are more prominent."

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25 Comments on "New Brookstone concept brings makers to the mall"


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Bob Amster
BrainTrust

This may turn out to be a win/win development for the retailer and for the malls in which Brookstone is a tenant. We all agree that the malls have to become more interesting and attractive. Playing with gadgets is both of these things (see the Apple store’s foot traffic, for example). For Brookstone, this may be the invigorating push that it needs to return to its old days of treasure hunt, innovation, wow, etc. Consumers will be willing to spend time in a mall if the overall experience is filled with such interesting products and the opportunity to play with them.

Keith Anderson
BrainTrust

I love the way Brookstone draws shoppers in with unique or quirky items, especially those with a sensory or experiential draw like massage chairs, drones, speakers, mattresses, and more.

If the Makers Showcase helps shoppers discover things they didn’t know they wanted, this could be another successful approach for Brookstone.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

Broadening the conversation about product innovation with in-store demonstrations by inventors has the potential for great theater along with news coverage and videotaping opportunities. By taking a page from book signings, tasting stations and the PERCH model, Brookstone is acknowledging the importance of retail experience. Brookstone’s task with the Showcase is to assure the greatest possible value to merchants that are devoting their time and money to the initiative.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

I don’t see Brookstone being successful as a standalone business outside of the mall. Besides that, there are two factors here: 1.) We see that malls understand that they need to reinvent themselves to bring in more traffic. That is starting to happen, and as the article points out, Roosevelt Field is attempting that. As more malls, become something new and exciting, more customers will come back. 2.) As for Brookstone, their biggest strength has always been being a browse business where customers can walk in and check out unique gadgets. They lost their edge because many of their products got tired and didn’t keep up with the times. This plan may help that. So if Brookstone can provide better and more exciting merchandise that will excite their customers and remain in malls that are undergoing a reinvention, I see the Brookstone store in a few years once again being very successful.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

As much as I like this initiative, Brookstone is not the determinant of whether malls do well or not. That depends on the wider mix of stores and services. My fear is that in many mall locations footfall will continue to decline and will have a detrimental impact on Brookstone stores in those locations.

Selective expansion outside of malls is an option. However, as a retailer reliant on passing trade, Brookstone will need to pick areas not only with good traffic levels but also where people have time to browse and try out products.

All that said, this is a step in the right direction and should help to increase consumer interest.

Phil Chang
BrainTrust

Good points Neil. I have similar thoughts, but you’re definitely more coherent than me. Not all retailers are equipped to do this, but Brookstone could be in a unique spot to help drive partial traffic to the mall. As you’ve said, in the past they’ve been reliant on others to do this, but I wonder if they couldn’t expand the things that draw transient traffic into their store as a means to drive transient traffic into the mall.

An area for teaching people how to fly drones? A massage expert to help people select some of their massage gadgetry (and heaven forbid buy a chair or two!)? Malls are in desperate need of reinvention … maybe, just maybe, Brookstone could help with that.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Thanks, Phil. I agree about added value services and teaching. It’s a good way of engaging and attracting people.

Nice job on this morning’s Live session, by the way!

David Weinand
BrainTrust

Love it. It’s a hot trend that they can hopefully leverage. Look at B8ta, The Market at Macy’s, Target’s Open House — all leverage the same idea of curating interesting independent products that create an experience. This is all about marketing. Brookstone needs to hold special events and even off-site evening events to position themselves as a leader in the product innovation space.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I like this idea very much, but in my opinion it brings with it a mandate to deliver fresh, updated assortments on a very regular basis. I believe that the appeal to shoppers is the opportunity to discover new things, and while that represents a great opportunity for Brookstone as well (by encouraging higher frequency), it also represents risk: they must keep bringing new products to the shelves. The Brookstone PLUS Innovation and Retail platform seems like a great way to develop a steady pipeline of new products to help fuel fresh assortments, and I am optimistic about this new concept.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Brookstone may find success with this concept in malls where traffic has declined but is still healthy. Opening one in a dying mall with not help Brookstone, the inventors or the mall.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

Perhaps the mall visit experience can be compared to the trade show walk-about. Trade show delegates visit the familiar exhibitors, look in on innovation pavillions and award winner exhibits. The entire visit investment is based on discovery, and trade shows are doing very well based on this simple model, which is not so different from the mall experience. Malls can make discovery easier and add an educational and showcase element (as Brookstone intends). Stuff on racks is so boring.

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

I love this! It would be even better if Brookstone could curate the selections of each individual store by incorporating products by makers that are unique to that area. Throw in some pop-up events and I think we have a winner.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I had the same thought about integrating (and showcasing/promoting) local Makers, Meghan! I think that could be a huge opportunity to drive interest/traffic/affinity.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

I’m a Me Too on this one. I think they need to up the ante a bit to really drive traffic and this would do it. For my 2 cents.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

Yes. That’s what Macy’s is doing for The Market. They are localizing assortment. It adds to the uniqueness of the concept, for sure.

Tom Dougherty
BrainTrust

It’s a great idea. But it means repositioning malls as a relevant destination. While conceived as a means to facilitate convenient shopping they no longer serve this purpose. The internet has replaced them.

You will see more of this idea blossom from Brookstone. But I doubt you will see it in malls. At least not in the somewhat near future.

Christopher Jordan
BrainTrust

Mentioning “experience” as a solution to declining sectors of retail has basically become a cliche.

However in this case, I believe the experience they’re planning will do wonders for not only Brookstone, but the malls themselves. If executed properly, I can certainly picture Makers Showcase being a draw of net-new foot traffic to these properties.

Aside from the movement of the consumer market towards smaller, independent, innovative brands, the popularity of analogous things like Shark Tank, infomercials, etc. leads me to believe it’ll do well.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

This is a cool idea. Rich and I have been heavily involved in the creative industries since we started our business. Crafters and DIYers have evolved into Makers. The Maker Movement is huge and the products that are introduced daily are amazing. Each year Creativation, the creative industries trade show, features a Maker Space. It’s a fascinating area with Makers of all ages sharing their creations.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have wanted to purchase a crowdsourced item on Facebook, only to realize it could be months or even years before it is available. Shopping at Brookstone has always been a treasure hunt; the addition of fresh new products from Quirky, Indiegogo and the like is a bonus.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Georganne, you’re right on spot. Brookstone is certainly a treasure hunt. This program will certainly inspire customers to discover and enjoy their time in-store. What retailer wouldn’t want that? My hat’s off to Brookstone — retail today is about constant re-invention. Right on!

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Georgeanne, I could not be more aligned with you in your annoyance of “products” that exist only in someone’s mind. Some time back on RetailWire I commented on my experience looking for a particular medical device only to find time and again what appeared to be real…wasn’t. Things that are CAD should be accompanied by a disclaimer: “This product exists only in my imagination.”

Joan Treistman
BrainTrust

Brookstone has to build context around the products they showcase. Perhaps they draw more consumers by asking them to assess the products and forecast their success. Tracking how well or how poorly these new products do can keep shoppers attentive when they’re in the mall and help motivate their return. I agree with the others who see the uphill or never-ending battle of trying to increase foot traffic in malls. Brookstone won’t be that panacea. But there just may be some number that will be sufficient for malls to survive and their tenants to turn a profit.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

“Nothing happens until somebody BUYS something!”

Anything we can do to encourage inventive minds should be done. It should start in the first grade IMO. So I agree with my colleagues that this is a truly good thing and kudos to ACE, Lowe’s, etc. for supporting the cause.

In the end it’s far more than attracting people into the store to see innovative products. If I’ve got hours to kill in an airport Brookstone is the first place I go. In more than four decades I’ve never bought a darn thing. The end-game here has to be a purchase or all this innovation is for naught. Solve that problem, Brookstone and you live long and prosper.

Gabriela Baiter
BrainTrust

As someone who lived down the street from Roosevelt Field growing up, it’s great to see them continue to innovate.

For the Makers, the visibility that Brookstone offers will be great for initial product feedback. However, rather than targeting people in suburban areas who have more discretionary income, they should consider placing these concept stores in major urban cities where early adopters are more prominent.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Infusing a steady stream of some of the most innovative new products from start-ups is a great way to make Brookstone more of a destination location and a store that consumers will want to visit more frequently. Brookstone has built its brand based on innovative products and introducing new products from small inventors will offer its customers a first look at new innovations. I was in a Brookstone store recently with my grandson who had only a limited amount of money to spend, but he was not able to find something in his price point. He then went to a Five Below below store where he had a wide assortment. Perhaps Brookstone should consider taking a page from the Five Below book to not only appeal to a younger audience, but also capture more of their spend. Brookstone’s continuous introduction of new innovations will inspire consumers to poke around in their store to see what is new since their last visit. It is a smart way to keep customer interested in the brand. The treasure… Read more »
Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

I think Brookstone has been very canny in choosing Roosevelt Field mall for this experiment. As the article points out this mall has already started to get a reputation for offering something a bit different. This may help it attract more footfall and then concepts like the Brookstone one will strengthen that. It may be that this one mall becomes a destination of choice.

Customers like the idea of being able to find something new when they shop and I think the new Brookstone idea is a great way to encourage experimentation. For the brands and products being sold there it’s a major win to have a space where people can experience the products (as people can be reluctant to buy something new without having seen it in person) and then having the online platform as well. Brookstone is using these independent inventors and entrepreneurs to ensure it has a supply of innovative new products to sell. I’ll be interested to see how this test case fares.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I like this idea very much, but in my opinion it brings with it a mandate to deliver fresh, updated assortments on a very regular basis."
"The end-game here has to be a purchase or all this innovation is for naught."
"...they should consider placing these concept stores in major urban cities where early adopters are more prominent."

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