By Konrad Putzier
If retail experts are right, New Yorkers will soon buy their groceries on the subway, or in walk-in cookbooks.
These new concepts from Seoul and Frankfurt are just two of the retail innovations that could make it to the Big Apple in coming years.
For more than a century, the U.S. has showered the world with new trends in retail — from the big-box store to the drive-thru. Now, the rest of the world seems to be returning the favor.
New Yorkers have already embraced great European retail inventions such as the overpriced, French-sounding sandwich shop — but experts say that more is to come.
“Everything always ends up right here because it’s the biggest the retail market in the world,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of the retail group at Douglas Elliman.
“Food is fashion. Any of these (foreign) concepts based on food will be the ones that make the first foray, like Pret has done in the past.” One notable innovation Consolo said might land in Manhattan soon is Germany’s Kochhaus. Dubbed a walk-in cookbook, the grocery store chain sorts its products by recipe, not by category. Shoppers unsure of what to cook can find recipes laid out for them — a concept that has proven surprisingly popular in Germany.
Consolo also said she expects an influx of foreign jewelry retailers, especially from Asia. For example, she noted that the popular Dubai-based jewelry retailer Damas is expanding in China and Russia, and that “New York can’t be far behind.”
Simon Gibbs of RKF just helped one of the foreign food pioneers — Wasabi — find its first store in New York. He said Wasabi, a popular sushi delivery chain from London, saw a niche for its pick ’n mix sushi boxes.
Gibbs said that most of his European retail clients are seeing New York as an opportunity to open a flagship store. “Retailers don’t need as many stores these days, they just need stores that make people understand the brand.”
Steve Rappaport, senior managing director at Sinvin, said the most interesting trend for the coming years is an expected influx of Chinese retailers. “We are currently working with Chinese electronics firms that would like to enter the marketplace in an Apple-type format,” he said, adding that Chinese clothing companies are also eyeing Manhattan.
“New York has always been an international city,” said Rappaport. “Now it’s the international city.”
At the Appraisal Institute’s annual conference in September, Gene Spiegelman, Cushman & Wakefield’s vice chairman, made a similar point: “It’s globalization retail within every aspect”, he said. “Ten years ago, the ratio between domestic and international retailers in New York was 80/20. Now it’s 60/40. International brands have become much more influential.”
One foreign innovation that Spiegelman said could make it to New York soon is the Virtual Store. Launched by British grocery-store chain Tesco’s subsidiary in Korea in 2011 at several subway and bus stops, it allows passers-by to buy groceries by scanning barcodes with their smartphones. The stores show their products on LED screens, and the groceries are usually delivered to the buyer’s home on the same day.