Below Ground: Retail's Latest Expansion

By Alissa Guzman, Content Manager, The Doneger Group
June 9, 2016

With foot traffic remaining a problematic factor for brick & mortar stores, urban retailers are adopting a new strategy based on the idea of reaching consumers in locations they already frequent--think subterranean. If commuting is a must, why not disrupt the daily grind? In Canada, Asia and Europe, cities like Montreal, Tokyo and Moscow spring to mind, underground shopping as a business model has already enjoyed great success. Vast underground malls, connected to subway stations, offer everything from food and clothing to popular beauty services like blowouts and manicures. The recent expansion of underground shopping has us reconsidering the idea of convenience, and begs the question: Can subway stations become a new destination location for retail?

TurnStyle

TurnStyle, located in a corridor of the station at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, offer riders the chance to wait out train delays in a new way. Part retail complex and part food hall, TurnStyle has 39 vendors running the gamut from artisan food to kitschy gifts. Attracting tourists and commuters alike, vendors feature local artisans selling handmade jewelry and unique souvenirs. It's high time the New York underground added a little fashion to its offering.

The New Stand

Building off this model, The New Stand, founded by local designer George Alan, is a kind of modern bodega. With approximately 150,000 people passing through the Union Square subway station every day, this 'New Stand' offers novelty (collapsible bike helmets, field recorders and Polaroid cameras), gourmet snacks, a curated book selection and arty magazines. With everything priced under 200 dollars, this cheery shop is bound to make a memorable impression on consumers.

24HOURCLUB x Ejder

Capitalizing on the current popularity of pop-ups, UK e-retailers 24HOURCLUB and Ejder teamed up last month to open a temporary menswear shop in London's underground. Committed to providing their customers with edgy and progressive brands, this temporary tube shop collaboration pushes their mission statement into new territory. Offering urban-inspired streetwear perfect for the stylish young male consumer, the out-of-the-box thinking of these e-com newcomers could foreshadow a future trend for retailers.

As the fashion industry looks for fertile and profitable ground in this new climate of immediacy and technology, these underground destinations feel like fresh makeovers of longstanding ideas. The element of surprise is key, and inherently adds to the novelty of the experience. Maybe it's time for retailers and consumers to reconsider the idea of destination shopping, and with 6 million people passing through the city each day, setting up shop underground could make perfect sense.