There’s community-based and community-driven. Youth-oriented shoe and apparel brand Vans has found the intersection of both, as seen in its most recent store opening this past week in Los Angeles.
The brand is well-known for using its community of skateboarders for design ideas and marketing. Now, it’s adding creative and meeting space into its newest L.A. location, bringing its direct-to-consumer (DTC) global store count to over 2,000. The 11,500-square-foot downtown space is designed around Los Angeles' deep skateboarding roots and art community, with over two floors featuring work from a number of local artists; a wide range of Vans footwear, apparel and accessories; and a dedicated community experience studio.
“Our downtown L.A. store opening signifies a new Vans chapter as we continue our mission and commitment to being community- and experience-focused," said Carly Gomez, VP of marketing, Americas at Vans. "Downtown L.A. has a rich history of skate culture and artistic freedom. Not only will we be opening our doors to the new space, but we will introduce Studio808, located on the second floor of the new store, where the community can share their creative energy through workshops, exhibitions and more.”
Studio808 will be a public gallery, lounge and workshop space, created in partnership with lifestyle magazine Monster Children. The studio will serve as a central hub for consumers and creatives, with the goal of giving back to the local community.
The brand has also partnered with Goodwill and Chrysalis to access underserved employees. Both of those nonprofit organizations have workforce development initiatives that work with previously homeless and at-risk youth. With the goal of developing a more diverse base of employees, Vans looks to hire its staff directly from the community.
The concept doesn’t always have to be altruistic. The experiential retailer b8ta is also launching a new community-driven store, this one aimed at fashion and lifestyle apparel. The company started in 2018, calling its concept “retail as a service” (RaaS). It operates dozens of b8ta stores across the United States, and its platform is open to other retailers and independent product designers.
The latest store, called Forum, opened in Los Angeles on Nov. 15. It aims to connect consumers with cutting-edge brands that emphasize design, quality and eco-friendliness. It will serve as a social marketplace, and brand partners will design their own spaces and operate their own marketing. Forum will enable brands to experiment with new products, markets, products, pricing and brand messaging, and will utilize b8ta’s RaaS software platform to measure them.
For example, customers can expect to see a dressing room experience at Forum that uses RFID technology. Brands will also have the ability to customize the backdrops in fitting rooms to match their tastes and to encourage sharing on social media platforms. Consumers can also use the digital display to learn about the brand and its products and to find various sizes and colors – right from the dressing room.
Macy’s – which announced 100 store closings this week – is also embracing the community-driven concept. On Feb. 6, the retailer opened what it calls a "flexible retail store format" at Southlake Town Square mall in Southlake, Texas. The 20,000-foot store will be called "Market by Macy’s." The new store's space will host "community-driven programming, from cooking tutorials and book signings to crafting and fitness classes," according to the company.