NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show offers a chance to visit some of New York’s cutting-edge stores. “New York is the epicenter of retail innovation, with 85% of the world’s design talent located in the city,” says Daniel Hodges, CEO of Retail Store Tours.
This year retail store tours are offered on four days of the event; the entire program covers over 250 unique stores. “The idea for our store tours came from attendees of the Big Show who said, ‘Get us out to see the stores of New York City,’” Hodges says. “What makes the store tours unique is that the content and focus of the tours are created each year based on feedback from retailers around the world.”
The company also offers both retail and innovation tours in New York City and over 50 markets around the world.
Hodges uses eight factors to evaluate stores: the human touch, the use of technology, store design, brand story, employee training, change management, unique value proposition and shopper safety.
Here are Hodges’ top 10 retail experiences in the New York City area.
727 Fifth Avenue
In April 2023, Tiffany & Co. unveiled its newly redesigned New York Fifth Avenue flagship store, created by architect Peter Marino. Upon entering the new store, you are immediately immersed in an expansive main floor of jewelry cases illuminated by an innovative take on a skylight. The ceiling installation spans nearly the room’s length and is composed of an abstraction of facets. Its unique design is a tribute to Tiffany’s heritage and authority as the purveyor of the world’s finest diamonds.
611 Fifth Avenue
Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue has been enticing customers since 1924. Driven by a mission to help customers express themselves through relevant and inspiring style, Saks delivers one-of-a-kind shopping experiences with an expertly curated assortment of fashion as well as highly personalized customer service. The store debuted a 40,000-square-foot men’s floor in early 2023 featuring 19 new shop-in-shops. It ranks highly for the personal touch, employee training, store design and unique value proposition.
232 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn
Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store is an authentic brand with a passion for excellence and has been a Brooklyn staple since it first opened 16 years ago. Annie’s serves the local community as well as customers all over the country with a robust online presence. Taking the concept of the old-school general store and modernizing it for city living, the shop has something for everyone. Annie’s hosts a refill station for sustainable cleaning products (cutting down on extra waste) and leans in hard for all the holidays. The store design, merchandising and knowledgeable staff make shopping at Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store both a joy and adventure.
American Dream Way, East Rutherford, N.J.
American Dream represents the future of retail experiences, including not only best-in-class luxury, fashion, beauty, electronics, sports, children’s and technology stores, but also rides and attractions such as DreamWorks Waterpark and an indoor ski slope. Designed for Instagram and TikTok spots, American Dream is among the most technologically advanced shopping centers in world. Leading brands such as Hermès, Zara, Primark and many more have their flagship stores at American Dream.
400 W. 14th Street
On the corner of W. 14th Street and Ninth Avenue in New York City’s Meatpacking District, Gucci’s latest boutique in New York spans two levels with over 9,000 square feet of retail space, and reflects the area’s eclecticism, vibrancy and creative energy. The store’s design is influenced by New York and Florence, two key cities in the House’s 102-year history.
Diverse elements of the interior design speak to Gucci’s ongoing commitment to embed sustainability throughout its retail network. The store’s furnishings include restored secondhand pieces, while surfaces are decorated with more environmentally friendly fabrics and materials like Demetra — the animal-free textile pioneered by Gucci is upward of 78% plant-based and made from sustainable, renewable and bio-based sources.
10 Hudson Yards
Little Spain transports you to the best dining experiences in Spain, offering the very best of Spanish food, drinks and culture from world-famous chef José Andrés and the Adrià brothers. Spanish mercados — farm stands, food stalls, bars and grocery stores all under one roof — are a cornerstone of neighborhoods and cities throughout the country. The Mercado (or Market) area of Mercado Little Spain is its very heart — a bustling area inspired by the many historic market halls throughout Spain. You’ll find food kiosks serving every type of Spanish delicacy, both sweet and savory, to enjoy there or to take away, as well as two bars, a coffee shop and full-service restaurants Mar and Leña.
134 N. 6th Street, Brooklyn
The Google Store Williamsburg is a neighborhood store, offering hands-on experiences with Google’s products and services in an intimate setting that celebrates the unique neighborhood. The store — and Google itself — is focused on sustainability from product design to manufacturing and across supply chains, by creating products, services and processes that reuse materials and reduce Google’s impact on the environment, and by collaborating with suppliers to create a safer, fairer supply chain.
20 Hudson Yards
Christian Dior was the designer of fashion dreams. In the current retail environment, one way to make dreams come true is through store design and the human touch. The Dior store in Hudson Yards is a world-class example of the importance of lighting in setting a mood for elegance and engaging customers. The Hudson Yards Dior store offers a signature mix of fashion for women and men in a sophisticated environment — it’s a unique and enlightening experience.
A global brand with over 1,000 stores around the world, UNIQLO is redefining clothing with an unwavering focus on quality and sustainability. UNIQLO exists to improve the lives of its customers and local communities by crafting clothing that lasts and is created under practices that prioritize people, planet and society. The flagship store honors the heritage of the building in which the store is located.
At 87,500 square feet, the Astor Place Wegmans employs over 600 people, the vast majority hired locally. The new store houses an array of pre-packaged and made-to-order restaurant foods, and the seafood department features fish delivered daily from ports across the country — and from the Toyosu Fish Market in Japan, flown in fresh several times a week. In addition, the store has committed over $87,000 to the local community through donations and event sponsorships in Manhattan over the last year as part of its mission to make a difference in every community it serves.
Additional curated tours
Beyond these suggested stops, Big Show attendees can take expert-led, highly curated and time-efficient walking tours of more than 200 notable stores in and around New York. These tours were created in partnership with Retail Store Tours (retailstoretours.com) and developed with extensive retail input.
The tours allow participants to gain insights from subject-matter experts, network with peers and stay ahead of industry trends. Programs are created with retailers and designed to deliver impactful, unique experiences for each location.
American Dream: The Future of Retail Experience
American Dream redefines the customer experience in shopping and leisure with a unique combination of retail, dining, technology, entertainment and attractions. Called one of the seven wonders of the retail world, it features over 400 stores and attractions, just a short bus ride from the Javits Center. It is among the most technologically advanced shopping centers in the world, with one of the most advanced uses of digital signage technology.
Brooklyn: Retail Reinvented
Well over a decade ago, an influx of artists, musicians and retro-style bars made Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood trendy. Today, we find existing brands such as Apple and Alo Yoga in unique forms and formats. Come to Williamsburg to see new creative concepts, products and business models in retail, easily accessible from midtown Manhattan and the Javits Center.
Fifth Avenue: Iconic Retailers
This tour of New York’s iconic retailers on the famous Fifth Avenue offers insight into the latest innovations in store design and reveals the ideas, influencers and thought process behind their conception. The tour will visit iconic stores in the heart of the Midtown shopping district, highlighting store innovation, technology, store concepts, merchandising and how brands see sustainability.
Take a look at the Retail Store Tours offered this year at NRF 2024: Retail's Big Show.
Hudson Yards + Grocery
One of the newest shopping facilities in New York City, Hudson Yards represents the best of what leading-edge retail has to offer. A vertical mall that is easy to navigate, it features everything from out-of-the-box mindfulness to participatory experiences to luxury brands reinventing themselves. Hudson Yards is on Manhattan’s West Side and a five-minute walk from the Javits Center.
SoHo: Innovation in Action
Nowhere is the scale and diversity of retail more pronounced than in SoHo and NoHo, known worldwide for innovative artistry and artfulness. It is here that retail is unbound, spilling all over the streets in a kaleidoscope of forms. Side by side with iconic stores are avant-garde pop-ups that will not be around tomorrow. The randomness is inspirational, and it adds to the neighborhood’s excitement. See why these neighborhoods are where old stores come to reinvent themselves.