Brookstone has launched a new platform to provide makers and tech brands easier, quicker access to store-based sales, including at A-level malls, at cost structures that are competitive to selling online, the company said in a Tuesday press release.
The new platform also allows for customer feedback that could help brands with product development, including via in-store, hands-on experiences with new products, according to the release.
The first Brookstone Makers Showcase store will debut April 21 at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, NY, and will feature crowdfunding campaigners from Indiegogo, inventors from Quirky, and new tech brands like Anker, Mobvoi and Royole. More stores are planned this year for the U.S. and China, the company said.
Much is often made of consumers' desire to touch and feel merchandise to assess fit and quality — that has helped keep most retail sales at brick-and-mortar stores and led many online shoppers to order several versions of a product.
But, for inventors and entrepreneurs who have developed new products, hand-on trials are also important to product and marketing iteration.
The Makers Showcase store will combine store traffic analytics from RetailNext, including traffic patterns, dwell time and conversion, and feedback from customer interactions to help makers gain such insights, the company said. The data and analytics could help brands "take continuous improvement actions on everything from merchandising to ongoing product development," RetailNext Cofounder and CEO Alexei Agratchev said in a statement.
Brookstone will also host a series of innovation competitions at universities, and winners may be featured in Brookstone stores worldwide.
The mall-based merchant of oddball electronics, gifts, travel gear and other assorted doodads began as a direct marketer, placing its first advertisement for "hard-to-find-tools" in Popular Mechanics in 1965. After growing a catalog business, Brookstone opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New Hampshire in 1973.
In 2014, the retailer was nearly sold in Chapter 11 to the parent of Spencer's, a fellow seller of unique (and amusingly nonessential) wares, but instead went to a joint venture between the China-based firms Sailing Capital and Sanpower Group for $174 million. Today Brookstone has more than 200 stores along with an e-commerce site and catalogs.
Brookstone's move to give makers store access comes the same week that news broke of crafts marketplace Etsy's pullback of its own program designed to enable artisanal product entrepreneurs gain access to brick-and-mortar stores.