Retailers are experimenting with different sizes, concepts and experiences in their newest flagship locations — and New York City is at the center of the action.
While visiting Manhattan’s bustling Times Square and Flatiron shopping districts, I got a glimpse into a variety of new retail experiences and concepts.
Here are a few of my favorites:
In August, It’Sugar opened the doors to its two-story, 20,335 sq. ft. flagship pop-up store on 42nd Avenue in the heart of Times Square. Described as a “candy department store,” Justin Clinger, It’Sugar’s director of design, licensing and marketing, the trendy candy store features an array of innovative sweets, novelty gifts and giant candy treats.
Upon entering the store, shoppers are greeted by a colorful homage to New York City: a lollipop garden comprised of more than 1,000 lollipops, a bubble-gum-blowing Statue of Liberty and a “Big Apple” made out of 1 million jelly beans. Directing shoppers to the lower level is a colorful mural depicting Times Square at night, an “It’Sugar” subway station sign, and a gum ball-filled “It’Sugar” logo.
Larger-than-life in-store displays, immersive candy experiences, shop-in-shops, candy stations and giant branded characters are located throughout the space. More than 35 candy licensed brands, including favorites such as Sour Patch Kids, Oreo, Nerds, Reese’s, Pez and Tootsie (among many others), are highlighted throughout the store alongside immersive areas devoted to retro and international candy and TikTok-trending treats, among other themes.
The store is also open 365 days a year, according to Clinger.
Unlike its permanent sister location across the river at East Rutherford, N.J.’s American Dream Mall, Times Square’s It’Sugar pop-up store will only be in town for a short time. Most It’Sugar pop-up locations generally have lease terms ranging from 13 to 36 months, according to the company.
The tween and teen value retailer is taking its third New York City store to a new level, opening a flagship in the fall at E*Walk, an entertainment and experiential retail complex on 42nd Street in Times Square — and directly across the street from It’Sugar.
Upon entering the 10,000-sq.-ft. store’s lobby, small displays feature seasonal tchotchkes and New York City-themed souvenirs. An escalator featuring colorful artwork including New York City buildings and the Statue of Liberty brings shoppers up to the store’s main level.
Colorful merchandise displays and wide aisles make it easy to navigate Five Below’s eight main “worlds,” which include Tech, Style, Room, Play, Create, Party, Candy, and New & Now. The store also features a section for New York City-inspired merchandise, including T-shirts, keychains, items for pets, home decor and more. During my visit, plenty of space was also dedicated to holiday-related merchandise, ranging from wrapping paper to stocking stuffers.
The new flagship also has a “Five Beyond” section, which is the retailer’s in-store shop concept dedicated to merchandise above the $5 price point.
Shoppers can further impulse shop on their way to checkout as they pass a greeting cards section and expansive candy department. After making their selections, shoppers can pay for orders with a cashier or use one of the store’s self-checkout stations.
One of the newest stores to hit Gotham is Herschel Supply. The 2,500-sq.-ft. store, which is mere steps from the neighborhood’s storied Flatiron Building, puts “a modern twist” on backpacks, as well as other travel essentials, including duffel bags, wallets, headwear and a new apparel line called Herschel Supply Uniform. (This is the digitally native, Canadian retailer’s first U.S. store. It operates four locations in Canada.)
The glass storefront attracts plenty of natural light which highlights colorful merchandise displays and complements design materials, including reclaimed oak tables, vintage furniture, black-painted oak walls, a tile-wrapped cash desk and dressing rooms and LED, as well as glass-blown lights. Store walls and display tables range from to vibrant colors to neutral shades — a juxtaposition that allows contrasting-colored product to pop. Signage and mannequins are at a minimum, putting full attention on the store’s merchandise assortment.
The space also has a 1,200 sq. ft. loft above the store’s main floor that will eventually be used for community events.
A series of framed photos line the walls leading toward the loft. The graphics are part of a rotating “Artist in Residence” program that will spotlight a new artist every three-to-six months.
Harry Potter New York
This immersive flagship store, also in the Flatiron District, brings the adventures of J.K. Rowling’s beloved wizard Harry Potter to life. Also located steps from the Flatiron Building, the three-floor, 21,000 sq. ft. store transports shoppers to a world of wizardry the minute they enter the front doors.
A highly detailed sculpture of Fawkes the Phoenix in the store’s entryway. Once inside, shoppers can visit 15 different themed areas, explore — and play with — replica wands at an interactive table, and take advantage of multiple Instagram opportunities, including a London-themed phone booth and an oversized pair of beloved gamekeeper Hagrid's boots.
By integrating store-level digital technology with the Harry Potter Fan Club app, shoppers can participate in a scavenger hunt. The app reveals “Enchanted Keys” hidden throughout the store, and each discovered key reveals exclusive behind-the-scenes facts and videos.
The flagship also features a cafe (which sells “Butterbeer” among other Harry Potter-themed treats), a candy store, personalization shop and two virtual reality experiences. The store, which opened in June, welcomes an average of 300 shoppers daily, according to a store associate.