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What the Allure Store Proves About the Future of Brick and Mortar for Beauty

November 17, 2021 Erika Veurink
November 17, 2021
Allure

On the corner of Lafayette and Broome Street, wide windows are decked with pale pink awnings. In what was once considered the epicenter of retail in New York City, the Allure Store is reviving what it means to stake claim in SoHo. In early October, the space hosted 67 events in 60 days—including influencer meet and greets, masterclasses, and brand launches, some of which drew lines out the door. Music played through the best-in-class speaker system. Sales associates decked in Still Here New York beige jumpsuits flashed sincere smiles and offered friendly expertise. Signage that appeared to be somewhere in the realm between magazine copy and an email subject line from a close friend, written mostly by Allure’s former Editor-in-Chief Michelle Lee, punctuated the space with a feeling of warm and accessible knowledge. 150 brands offering over 250 products would agree, the Allure Store is working.

The decision to embody a brick-and-mortar space wasn’t without a vision, which was brought to life by the physical space’s parent company Stour and its creative director and co-founder, Sonny Gindi. When asked what drew him to the location of Stour’s first outpost, Gindi commented, “We needed to build a home and a community for our brands and shoppers and knew a corner location would be able to accomplish that.” More specifically, Gindi points to the importance of the exact location, “at the entrance of both Soho and Nolita”— what he calls “two of the most important retail corridors in the world.” This is the first of the lessons the Allure Store and Stour are rewriting into the book of what it means to invest in physical retail in the heyday of DTC, online only. Beyond investing, they’re determining what it takes to establish a shopping experience so impactful, it can’t fail.

“Details are everything,” shares Sonny. “It's what makes or breaks any experience.” The Allure Store works within Stour’s ethos of touching all the customer’s senses. The fabled “sensory experience” has long been heralded as a key to great retail, but making the customer feel like a beauty VIP? That’s an Allure Store exclusive. Diptyque scents the store. Sales associates are referred to as “beauty guides.” Complimentary coffees and of-the-moment seltzers are served at the door. The cool marble counters and curved edges inspire visions of what shopping used to mean—an experience that eclipses a bright computer screen. Or in the words of Gindi, “a wonderland but in the most chic way.”

All this to say, a physical space that doesn't embrace the enhancements technology offers is outdated. But the interactive mirrors that promised to alter retail five years ago have yet to see mainstream play. There’s a balance between grounding the customer in the delight of the physical experience and empowering them with deeper knowledge technology can supply. While the interactive mirrors in the Allure Store offer the capability to film a tutorial, they’re mostly used as a modern take on an old-fashioned photo booth. Every product in the store is outfitted with a QR code, allowing the customer to read content around the product and even purchase it off their own phone. A beauty guide will then retrieve the product from the backstock in the basement for a wholesome person-to-person exchange before departing the store. What works is the control the customer experiences being able to steer the ship of their own shopping experience.

“Details are everything. It’s what makes or breaks any experience.”
By Sonny Gindi, creative director + co-founder, Stour

On the brand side, Brian Granoff, Global Trainer at Sunday Riley, couldn't be happier with opting into all the Allure Store has to offer. “The moment the client walks into the beautiful store, they can see Sunday Riley. The store is innovative, with a modern approach to retail,” he shares via email. And when it comes to events in the space, Granoff considers the perk “a great opportunity for us to share our brand DNA, values and top-sellers with influencers and media.” He notes that “while the space is intimate, all of the brands worked well together and there was enough space for the attendees to visit all brands.” Granoff highlights even the floral activation outside the Allure Store as an “opportunity for brand awareness and social engagement.”

For Sonny and the Condé Nast team behind the Allure Store, the core of the store’s sensation boils down to its two founding pillars—“content and influence.” Nowhere is this magic combination more prevalent than in the sheer amount and success of events in the space. When purchasing shelf space in the Allure Store, brands are given access to the store and the partnered Arlo Hotel. Averaging three events per day some weeks, the store is in a constant state of newness, attracting customers and building a reputation as a stop along the way to becoming notable in the beauty space. Sonny Gindi on the value of IRL events offered to brands in the Allure Store: “Every brand in the store can host up to three events a quarter where they can activate as big or as small as they want.” But events aren’t just a chance to debut products, they’re a chance to build community. Superfans can meet their heroes, whether they’re influencers associated with a brand, founders, or beauty editors whose articles they treat as holy grail. And the proof is in the 161 influencers who organically visited the space in Q3, and even more so in the 32,022,022 total influencer impressions that resulted from those visits. In the same span of three months, 18 stories were written about the store, culminating in 342,602,916 media impressions.

There’s no perfect road map for what it means to stay relevant in the uncharted landscape of retail, especially for beauty. Stores within stores seem to have had their moment, pop-ups can’t promise sustainable results, and testing of products, an integral reason for stepping into a physical space to begin with, is being forced to innovate due to health concerns. What the Allure Store proves is that with a little innovation, the right location, and just the right amount of content, IRL shopping can remain a beneficial endeavor for consumers and brands alike.

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