As retailers scramble for market share, they continue to bandy about the latest buzzwords and phrases. The vernacular of the day includes such tasty couplets as “experiential shopping,” and of course the term I love to hate, “omnichannel.” As retailers navigate their way through an unfamiliar retail landscape, a new realization is coming into focus: Food will save retail; kale is the new black.
So while market share is vital, strategists are turning to another market: the food market. The allure of food is clearly impacting traditional retail stores, and new food markets are springing up like mushrooms after a summer rain.
The Canal Street Market in Chinatown delightfully mixes food and merchandise, and small, booth-like shops intermingle with exotic international food kitchens. It’s important to note that international considerations can deliciously help retailers satisfy their insatiable appetites for savory sales. Retailers who aren't thinking globally simply aren't thinking. Not only do people of all ages and demographics want food, they want cool, healthy and exotic fair. (Thank you, Anthony Bourdain.)
The realization that travelers (business, tourist or otherwise) also have a hunger for the sweet and savory led to the opening of the Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Station. Under the vaulted ceilings of Grand Central, the ultimate travel hub, one can indulge in a sourdough morning bun filled with house-smoked salmon and cream cheese; a warm pastrami sandwich with smoked brisket, red onion relish and crispy shallots, at New York Nordic; or a brew of El Cadejo coffee from the Rodas family in Antigua, Guatemala, at Brownsville Roasters.
Positioned in the iconic terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall under soaring 48-foot-high ceilings, the Great Hall offers a view into old New York juxtaposed with a contemporary culinary delight. From caviar to breads, soups and salads, the Great Northern Food Hall will tantalize the palate while offering an experiential social gathering place. Are you listening, retailers? This sounds like a recipe for success.
Eric Feigenbaum is a recognized leader in the visual merchandising and store design industries with both domestic and international design experience. He served as corporate director of visual merchandising for Stern’s Department Store, a division of Federated Department Stores, from 1986 to 1995. After Stern’s, he assumed the position of director of visual merchandising for WalkerGroup/CNI, an architectural design firm in New York City. Feigenbaum was also an adjunct professor of Store Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and formerly served as the chair of the Visual Merchandising Department at LIM College (New York) from 2000 to 2015. In addition to being the Editorial Advisor/New York Editor of VMSD magazine, Eric is also a founding member of PAVE (A Partnership for Planning and Visual Education). Currently, he is also president and director of creative services for his own retail design company, Embrace Design.