Can Immersive Shopping Experiences Replace Amazon Prime?

Saturday, December 22, 2018
Before the days of Amazon, Etsy, and eBay, shopping was a tickle-your-senses experience that took place in the real-life world of brick and mortar. And while it’s not easy to compete with the speed and ease of shopping for a new pair of pajamas while, well, sitting at home in your pajamas, several creative new stores in New York City are redefining the shopping experience as an all-out immersive day of fun. Check out these unique retail emporiums that make shopping for everything—from toys and T-shirts to silverware and end tables—an adventure.


Hoping to fill a void left by the departure of Toys R Us, Camp is as much a high-end theme park as it is a store: When you first walk through the doors on Fifth Avenue, it looks like a typical kids’ gift shop: cute T-shirts, puzzles, cans of slime, and sparkly unicorns. But then a shop clerk invites you to walk through a secret bookcase, and—ta-da!—you're transported to a summer camp–themed "experience store" (minus the mosquitoes and mud). The huge, lush space features an old station wagon kids can climb through, a canoe filled with stuffed animals, a camp bunk with a slide that leads to a disco party, a stage for concerts and readings, a hands-on “radio station,” and multiple areas for crafts and creative play. There’s plenty to buy, too: a carefully curated collection of STEM toys, classic games, magic kits, food and cooking toys, crafts kits, and more. There’s even a bar where kids can sample flavored (and safe to consume!) bubbles—while mom and dad pick up a latte and a Compost Cookie at Milk Bar. The owners of Camp, who plan to eventually expand to 10 locations across the country, promise to change up the theme and decor every three months, so you'll always have a reason to come back. 110 Fifth Avenue (between 16th and 17th Streets), Chelsea
shopping new york Photo courtesy of Camp


We’ve seen cutting-edge indie pop-up shops before, but Showfields promises to take this 21st-century retail trend to the next level. The 15,000-square-foot NoHo space aims to introduce consumers in person to some of its favorite digital-native brands. The store opened this month with nine personal care and wellness brands, including Frank Body coffee-based cleaners, Quip electric toothbrushes, and plant-based skincare by Nuria. It will soon expand to fill its four stories with a co–working space, a café, and a spot for art exhibitions and events. And just like Camp, Showfields promises to switch it up before you have a chance to get bored—the individual pop-up brands will change every six months. 11 Bond Street (between Lafayette and Great Jones Streets), NoHo
shopping new york Photo courtesy of Nuria

Blue Box Café

Live out your Holly Golightly dreams at the Blue Box Café, the high-end novelty dining experience located in the flagship space of, you guessed it: Tiffany & Co. (It only took 57 years after the classic Audrey Hepburn film was released for the retail icon to realize that, yes, zillions of people come to New York hoping to have breakfast there.) If you can nab a reservation at the very popular—and very blue—restaurant, you can enjoy a breakfast of waffles, coddled eggs, and avocado toast (you can get lunch there, too, but then you’re really missing the point!). And of course, to make the Tiffany’s experience complete, you can shop while you eat—check out the specially curated Home & Accessories collection to bring a bit of the luxury jewelry store glam back home with you in the iconic robin’s-egg blue box. 727 Fifth Avenue (between 56th and 57th Streets), Midtown East
shopping new york Photo courtesy of Blue Box Café

RH New York

In the same Meatpacking District space that once housed the celeb-fave canteen Pastis, Restoration Hardware recently opened its massive (90,000 square feet!) new shopping experience. In addition to “artistic installations” like custom-upholstered cribs, bamboo media consoles, and vintage embroidered rugs, the shop also includes a restaurant and an interior design firm. And let's not forget the rooftop wine bar, where you can rub shoulders with professional designers while sipping a handcrafted coffee or glass of Merlot (just don’t spill on that one-of-a-kind rug!). 9 Ninth Avenue (between Little West 12th and West 13th Streets), Meatpacking District
shopping new york Photo courtesy of Restoration Hardware/Yelp

Salter House

Brooklyn’s newest store-café hybrid might feel smaller and homier than the aforementioned Manhattan locations, but its outer-borough charm makes the shopping experience all the more enjoyable. The family-owned housewares shop offers natural and sustainable goods, including wood tops, organic cotton onesies for babies, horsehair bath brushes, and enamel butter warmers. Keep the simpler-times vibe going by grabbing some gluten-free, vegan treats in the store’s café. 119 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights
shopping new york Photo courtesy of Salter House

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