Aye! 2015

Top Retail Innovators

We recently came across this article that talks about retail innovators that have changed the way we all do business. In true Retail Concepts fashion, we wanted to create our own list of retail innovators and trendsetters as we felt the published list might have too narrow of a lens. So read on and let us know what you think.


DryBar has changed how people think about getting their hair done and has made it more of a regular outing for women. Say goodbye to the typical notion of a salon, and hello to this new niche market.

Every touch-point of the DryBar experience is considered — from the comfiest and most efficient salon chair, the consistent color theme visible in every location, brand message, post, etc., to even the smallest subtleties like having subtitles on for movies playing, DryBar has considered it all and works constantly to make the customer the star of the show.

Warby Parker

Anyone that wears glasses knows what a royal pain the process can be, not to mention how expensive it is!  Warby Parker flipped the stagnant industry on it’s head in 2010 when it launched an ecommerce (only!) eyewear company that cut out the middle man (lowering prices, drastically) and donated a pair of glasses for every pair sold.

Since 2010, the brand has taken off and strategically grown and tested showrooms in markets across the country. Their brick and mortar approach has been slow, steady and super strategic targeting in-the-know Millennials. Now, go into one of their thirteen showrooms and find not only their target market but tons of overflow flocking to check out everything the brand has to say. Props!


Starbucks is one of those brands with extreme customer loyalty. And when you ask a regular what they love about the brand, it may be the strong coffee, or the pastries, but more often than not, it’s the experience. Every Starbucks location has a quaint vibe that works with the overall brand without feeling like a chain.

They also have a strategic growth plan, to avoid getting *burned*. No matter what they expand to (talks of lunch, dinner, delivery even!) the core of their business will remain Starbucks and they intimately understand their target customer whom is central to the decision making process. Mobile payment app? Check! Unlimited time on Wifi? Of course! Total brand integration? You know it.

The Container Store

The Container Store takes it’s customer service seriously. That’s why every employee goes through extensive training and the company launched with an “employee first” mentality. The Container Store is made up of true team players, at all levels, that believe in the brand and understand both long and short term goals. Transparency 101, here.

Trader Joe’s

Walk into Trader Joe’s, and it’s hard not to smile. TJ’s does an outstanding job of knowing who they are as a brand — which is why employees Hawaiian shirts don’t come off as cheesy.

They also flip the traditional grocery store model on it’s head, offering almost only private label goods they know their customers are going to love, in a fraction of the number of SKUs a traditional grocery store would offer. And their (liberal) return policy caters to trying new things. Don’t love it? Just tell them and pick out something different, or get a refund. No questions asked.

Last thing (for now!) that we think makes Trader Joe’s an outstanding retail innovator? Their understanding of localization. Each store pays homage to its neighborhood in an on-brand way. Go on and look at a couple stores, we dare you.


Target is one of those rare exceptions we talk about; they have a wide target market that ranges from a college kid with a fixed budget, to the woman that shops at Neiman Marcus.  And why is this the case? Because they know who they are, they don’t pull any punches and are willing to take strategic risks. In *normal* retail-land, Issac Mizrahi and Nate Berkus would never sell to a big box retailer, but Target doesn’t take the big box approach, they take their own. And that’s why they are a retail innovator.


Story (yes, that is the name of the store!) is taking big steps to change the public’s notion of *typical* brick and mortar retail. This concept is a rotating pop-up that tells a different story every 8- weeks or so in it’s Manhattan 10th Ave space. And it’s all about the experience, which is why they don’t offer ecommerce.

Founder Rachel Shechtman took a risk, and even though it may not (financially) be a moneymaker, she is making a splash and helping to redefine retail in 2015 and beyond.

What now?

Do you have other retailers that you would add to this list? Do you disagree with our list of retail innovators? Let’s start a conversation.