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June 24, 2006

Uncrate Stores - You Know, For Shopping

Categories Shopping 

Uncrate.com is a funny thing: it’s like a stunning showroom of awesome products, but nothing is for sale. They feature the coolest stuff for an oft-ignored consumer: the materialistic man seeking not just good stuff but good-looking stuff. It really is amazing how many stores cater to essentially the same group of women customers (think of all the quirky boutiques selling unique jewelry, purses, clothes, home accessories, etc), but almost nothing exists for me(n). Which got me thinking, Uncrate.com should open stores. Read on to see how it could work…

Is this really necessary?

While the Uncrate website is great, you're still stuck trying to track something down locally if you actually want to touch or play with something before you buy. I’m hesitant to buy clothes or bags without seeing them first and usually want to try out gadgets before I buy. So a brick-and-mortar store would allow customers to try stuff out before they buy. Also, an Uncrate store would be a great place to direct people to for gifts.

Ok, so how would it work?

One route, followed by most chain retailers, would have all the stores owned and maintained centrally by Uncrate. Uncrate could scout locations, hire an interior architecture firm like AVRO|KO to design the interior, hire a staff, and fill the stores with products from Uncrate.com. This would work just fine, and it would give Uncrate primo buying power as well as quality control. Stores should be small (around 1000 square feet or less) and as perfectly designed as the website. They'd be wise to allow individual stores set their own inventory and allow room for some products not featured on Uncrate.com by local designers or companies. This would provide an interesting new way to find new products for the website, as local manufacturers and designers could approach an individual store directly with their wares. This method would be a lot of work on Uncrate's side so they could also just hire some retail management company to do all this for them, but where's the fun in that? If the appearance of the blog (and all of its well thought out nuances) is any indication of their interest in total quality control, I have a feeling the guys at Uncrate would get up to their elbows in store design (much like Steve Jobs has).

Alternatively, Uncrate.com could license the Uncrate name to store owners under the condition that the vast majority of the inventory be products featured on Uncrate.com. Uncrate could contract an interior architecture firm to provide interior decorating services and an interior style guide. All new stores could be designed by the firm or comply with the style guide. Obviously a store owner could just open up a store and fill it with stuff from Uncrate.com, but use of such a recognizable name would be worth the licensing fees. This method would generate revenue for Uncrate.com without a lot of overhead or ongoing expenses.

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