Apple has shown that with the right strategy and constant focus, a manufacturer can build and maintain their own retail stores. Their success, stemming from the seamless transition between product experience and shopping experience allows them to directly control their destiny from product development through customer service. The list of other manufacturers venturing into retail, likely inspired in part by Apple’s path continues to grow. One of the latest is iconic American furniture and textile maker Knoll who opened their first corporate run retail store in New York City. The location is important as Knoll was founded in NYC back in 1938 before relocating its headquarters to Pennsylvania.
The new retail shop occupies a storefront below their relocated showroom on 6th Ave and 54th St., and aims to be a customer friendly place to browse and buy Knoll products while the showroom will service design trade professionals. Hunter De La Cruz, the Knoll Shop Manager said that the plan is to update the merchandise mix of the store every 6-8 weeks to reflect the season. The store opens with a featured summer collection of outdoor furniture by Richard Schultz. Later in the fall, small office products will be featured to coincide with back-to-school. The store isn’t large which should make transformations easier to manage for their first attempt at mainstream retail.
One challenge for Knoll, beyond generating sales from the store is to maintain a healthy relationship with their existing dealer and retail partners like Design Within Reach who might think Knoll is now competing for their own customers. Cruz said that while opening more stores is not out of the question, the existing distribution and sales network has the advantage of customer reach and logistics that Knoll couldn’t easily build themselves from scratch. However, the Knoll Shop does give the company their own platform to introduce exclusive and limited edition products to create uniqueness and drive traffic.
Bertoia Chairs and Maya Lin Tables.
Design Classics Gallery.
Textile Collection samples.
iPad based digital shopping assistant.