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5 Companies Transforming The Corporate Showroom

Even as we bemoan the loss of grounded retail to 21st century e-commerce, corporate showrooms are changing the way customers engage with the products they consume. Here are five of the most innovative spaces revamping the way we shop.

1. Warby Parker


The NYC HQ of the most trusted names in hipster glasses is also, not coincidentally, one of the city's foremost businesses revolutionizing corporate retail.

Customers can book eye exams with the company’s optometrists in advance of their visits; opticians then guide clients through the frame selection process for both regular eyeglasses and sunglasses, adjusting the frames to fit the precise shape of their faces.

The office boasts efficient next-day service, meaning clients no longer need to wait one to two weeks for their glasses to arrive. Clients who can’t make the trip during office hours can order up to five pairs to try at home for free before committing to a purchase.

2. Sonos


Home speaker system giant Sonos is ramping up its retail presence with its first flagship location in New York City, which opened this July on SoHo's Greene Street. The store is operating as a bit of a testing ground for the company prior to opening other locations across the globe.

Customers are thrust into seven listening cubes built to mimic the look, feel and sound design of house and apartment rooms, enabling them to authentically experience the speakers as they would sound at home. Sonic Youth lead singer Thurston Moore has even provided fodder for some of the store’s decoration in the way of traditional cassette tapes.

“You walk into these different rooms that resemble your den, your living room, and hear the sound as you hear it in real life,” says John Brod of ABS Partners Real Estate. "It’s a showroom. Monolithic retailers are combining more than one function and process in their spaces, finding new ways to make a traditional brick-and-mortar presence work.”

3. The National Geographic Ocean Exhibit


Interactive exhibits and gallery spaces are at the helm of the transformed corporate showroom. This summer saw the announcement of an enormous new National Geographic exhibit in Times Square (above), set to replace Discovery’s current museum.

Times Square Attractions Live signed a 15-year lease for a massive, 59k SF space in Jared Kushner’s retail condo, with the intention of planting a small piece of the sea smack dab in the middle of one of the largest tourist attractions in the world. The company plans to fully immerse visitors in a miniature ocean world, with a body scanner that will allow guests to insert a tiny projection of themselves inside the model.

4. Rent the Runway


America’s most beloved female-focused, formal wear rental company plays the corporate showroom role to the tee. With two locations—one on 22nd and 21st streets, as well as another on 15th Street—in New York City, Rent the Runway allows customers to rent designer dresses for weddings, school dances and other formal functions for flexible lengths of time.

Clients make appointments online or over the phone, then receive a full stylist makeover—complete with jewelry and outfit curation by a team of in-store fashion experts. Customers not only walk away with a glam, affordable outfit, but with an experience on par with a celebrity preparing for the red carpet.

5. Tesla


Tucked away in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, Tesla’s 40k SF space enables customers to effectively design their own cars right in the building. In-house touch-screen studios with user-friendly interfaces let customers try out various colors, wheel designs, smart capabilities and more to customize their vehicle. Clients know exactly what they’re getting—because they’re the ones designing the product.

As for the future of retail corporate showmanship? Instant gratification.

“When you buy a Tesla car and walk into the showroom to customize the car’s computer and aesthetic, you’ll be able to have it delivered to you, ready to drive, that same day,” John says. “A bride’s dress will be made-to-measure and ready-to-wear the day you walk in. That’s the future.”

To learn more about Bisnow partner ABS, click here.