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The openings of two new retail developments in New York City today indicate how the future of digital brands is taking shape in the shopping mall.

  • The retail and dining destination at Hudson Yards, where revolving art installations, restaurants, luxury outlets and larger-footprint stores, like Neiman Marcus’s first New York City location, has its second story dedicated as a “Floor of Discovery,” meant to drive visitors to startup brands that mostly exist only online.
  • The floor will storefronts from born-online brands like M.Gemi, Mack Weldon, b8ta, Rhone, Heidi Klein, Lovepop, Stance and Iris Nova, parent company of Dirty Lemon, which will be opening “The Drug Store,” a cashierless drug store vending concept.
  • Other established brands, like Madewell, Muji and Uniqlo, will be experimenting with more experience-based store concepts in the retail space.
  • The 18-million-square-foot real estate development, open March 15 in New York City, is promising 65,000 visitors per day
  • Meanwhile, downtown in New York’s Soho neighborhood, the new four-story retail store Showfields has partnered with Shopify to fill its retail space with online Shopify merchants.
  • Brands include Wild One, Hudson Wilder, Meso Goods, Coco and Breezy and Best Self Co.
  • Shopify, whose low-barrier e-commerce platform has contributed to the rise of the DTC brand boom, is now pushing into physical retail, acting as a backend bridge for online stores going offline for the first time.
  • Elsewhere in Showfields is a rotating selection of 30 startup brands in physical outposts, launching with Quip, Frank Body, PureWow and more.

The opening marks a new relationship between retail developers and brands. To get digital startup brands in the door — in many cases for their first permanent store, or at the first in New York — the real estate developers made accommodations. Leases were made to be more flexible to help the brands take on less risk, something that’s becoming increasingly more commonplace as online brands eye physical spaces but bulge at 10-year agreements, a formerly standard lease term in retail real estate.

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