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Image courtesy Brooke S. Richman
Interview

Brooke S. Richman

01.12.15

coop & spree is a new retail experience opened late last year by Brooke S. Richman. Richman started out at Citibank analyzing retail trends until the fashion industry came calling, as it does, and joined the team at Helmut Lang before heading to Theory. With merchandising and buying experience and armed with her knowledge of retail trends, she decided to venture out on her own and open a traditional brick and mortar shop infused with digital perks.

Interview

coop & spree sort of takes us full circle and gets people shopping in a brick and mortar again, albeit, in a new way – can you describe the full scoop of this shopping experience?

coop & spree revitalizes the traditional brick & mortar shopping experience by infusing the digital sophistication that the millennial customer, who is accustomed to primarily shopping online, has come to expect. While we provide the ability to see, touch, and feel the merchandise we are selling – we also provide a number of fun experiences and conveniences that enhance the customer experience and drive user engagement. We have a photobooth in-store, a smart phone charging station, a smart TV with Direct TV, Ipads with a digital newsstand where one can peruse the web or catch up on the latest pop culture stories, complimentary wine & beer amongst other amenities. We also interact multiple times per day with our customer on various forms of social media – particularly on Instagram. Lastly, we have a stylist-in-residence who customers can make appointments with – she can completely revamp your wardrobe and closet (if desired) while also putting together great outfits utilizing pieces form your own wardrobe with items from our store.

What is it about traditional retail that had you re-imagining this experience?

I loved the idea and more important, the feeling I would get when walking into a brick and mortar store as a younger shopper. It’s really important for customers to visually see all the clothing / merchandise and have the ability to touch and feel it as well as try it on. I wanted to integrate this experience with the digital components that are important to customers in a heavily prominent e-commerce world.

How did your time at Citibank analyzing the retail industry inform your new venture?

While I loved the research component of my job at Citi, it was there that I realized I had a unique competitive edge when looking at and assessing retail businesses: while I understood how to decipher a company’s earnings and make sense of their financial metrics; I also inherently understood the more qualitative aspect of the retail side since I was a the consumerĀ  / target demographic of many these companies.

In what ways is coop & spree different than the average multi-label boutique?

Everything that we do at c&s boils down to product, people, and passion. We’re in the business of selling great clothes, but we’re also in the business of selling an unparalleled customer experience.

From a product perspective, we carry under the radar brands, emerging and international designers that one can’t easily find in your regular multi brand boutique- many of them I found on Instagram!

Was it tough getting established brands on your roster?

It wasn’t as tough as I had originally anticipated since my resume and my time at Helmut Lang and Theory gave me a lot of credibility. My network at Theory and Columbia Business School were vital in signing key vendors.

What emerging labels do you carry?

Kaelen, Nonoo, Jaggar, Annine Bing, Kempner, Chalk, Morgan Carper, Sachin & Babi, Unreal Fur, 3×1, Phyllis + Rosie, Rachael Ruddick

You’ve said previously, Andrew Rosen is a mentor – how did this come about?

Andrew was the first person to interview me at Theory. After I started working there, I cultivated a strong relationship with him. I would frequently stop into his office to ask him questions about the business and also had the opportunity to fill him in about our theory women’s retail business when we had company wide meetings.

What advice specifically did he provide before opening last summer?

He has always been extremely supportive and was the person who instilled in me the importance of having a cohesive merchandise assortment. He also always stressed to me that it’s critical to really believe in the integrity of the product you’re selling. This I always remind myself at every market / buying appointment.

How does the Nolita neighborhood reflect your target customer?

Nolita is a downtown Manhattan neighborhood where people want to explore and find cool, new things to do, eat, and wear. Our girl is very much this downtown Manhattan girl whose curious and edgy – she likes to explore NYC and values the ability to learn about new designers. She doesn’t want to dress exactly theĀ  same as all of her friends so she’s particularly attracted to under the radar brands.

What have been the biggest surprises since going out on your own?

Definitely how receptive our customer is to our Australian labels (ex. Bec & Bridge, camilla & marc). I personally found them really appealing from an aesthetic perspective but I literally can’t keep these items in store – which has been really exciting and rewarding.

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