Retail innovation

Breathing New Life into Retail

A look at major players outside of the sporting goods retail channel reveals some innovative ideas energizing the brick-and-mortar experience.

Salt at Saks

Retailers looking to enhance their in-store experience by adding a profitable wellness component might want to take a lesson from Saks Fifth Avenue.

The upscale department store recently added Salt Rooms to a special area called The Wellery, which also features fitness classes, an indoor golf range and healthy snacks and drinks.

The Salt Rooms are a modern twist on Salt Therapy, which has been recognized as a viable health and wellness option for more than a century in Eastern Europe, where believers visit salt caves and spas to detoxify their lungs, ease discomfort from asthma and improve their skin and overall wellness.

Saks was able to re-create this experience for ita customers in a neon-lit chamber the size of a phone booth that features pink Himalayan salt bricks on the walls, and pink salt crystals on the floor. Customers pay $25 for a 15-minute session in which a fine mist of 100 percent pure sodium chloride is dispersed throughout the booth from a device called a halo generator.

Shoppers can also buy assorted bath salts, salt blocks for cooking and even shot glasses made of salt.

“The wellness thing is big,” Sakes president Marc Metrick told the New York Times. “We’re calling it ‘the new luxury.’ People just want to feel better.”Of course, Metrick is also hoping that the enhanced in-store experience contributes to a healthier bottom line for his store. He is betting that shoppers who experience features like The Salt Room will spend more time in the stores and return frequently, both of which will drive repeat traffic and stronger profits.

“Selling stuff in stores is not the answer,” he said. “You have to build an emotional connection with your customer.

The Salt Rooms are available to retailers through Breathe Salt, which is owned by Ellen Patrick, a highly trained Yoga Therapist and breathing expert, and Gary Patrick, SVP global advertising director for Skechers, who has spent more than 35 years working with sporting goods and active lifestyle retailers. Patrick became an advocate for dry salt therapy because it helped him with his own breathing issues. He has since traveled throughout Europe experiencing the therapy and how to bring the service to the United States in a contemporary, affordable way. They have opened two free-standing Salt Rooms in Manhattan and two in Westchester County, but believes the real future of the category could be in retail stores, malls and airports.

“We learned from working with Saks 5th Ave in their flagship NYC store that this is a great way to enhance the experience at retail stores,” Patrick said. “You can’t buy salt room Halotherapy service online, so this is a chance for stores to offer a service that is unique that fits in with the lifestyle of their customers and the products they sell.”

To have Dry Salt Therapy environments installed in their stores, retailers would need to invest about $5000 to start. After that, there are very minimal labor and maintenance costs. Patrick said a frequently visited Salt Room could yield well over $1000 a square foot on an annual basis. “The target market is very broad,” he said. “It’s everyone who breathes. We believe if you breathe better, you’ll participate more, which should lead to increased sales.”  

For more information on Breathe Salt Rooms, visit the website at

Convenience as a Concept at Nordstrom

In April, Nordstrom opened the doors to its very first flagship, full-line New York City location and first ever stand-alone men’s store. The three-level 47,000-square-foot store at 235 West 57th Street offers not only a differentiated merchandise assortment, but also a range of convenient services for shoppers.

Nordstrom uses the description of being “committed to serving customers on their terms.” This is evident in services focusing on convenience, speed and ease. At each store entrance shoppers will find Express Returns kiosks, plus Style Boards, 24/7 Buy Online & Pick-Up in Store, Reserve Online & Try in Store and Three-Hour Same Day Delivery anywhere in Manhattan. The aim is to bridge the convenience of online shopping with the personal experience of the store.

Shoppers also have access to 24/7 Express Services during all hours for “fashion emergencies” like lost luggage or items that went unpacked, in addition to a cell phone charging station, expert Shoeshine and Complimentary Personal Stylists.

The New York City men’s Nordstrom also includes a Clubhouse Bar with Central Park views and a coffee shop.

Among the exclusive merch concepts is “The Nike Men’s Project,” a sportswear and shoe destination for style and fitness-obsessed customers that will offer the brand’s latest sneakers and apparel collections.

The flagship men’s store also features an array of customization and personalization experiences, including the Levi’s Tailor Shop, where customers can design custom embroidery on any item, heat press a shirt or get an express hem while they wait; Shinola is offering watch customization in addition to a selection of tech products; Samuelson Custom Suit Visualizer offers an interactive digital made-to-measure suiting experience; Eton Endless Aisle is a digital touchscreen offering an expanded assortment of dress shirts and ties; and cult-favorite Le Labo is creating personalized fragrance labels in the grooming department.

The grooming department will also feature “celeb” barbers coming to New York for special appearances.