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Please don’t call them stores: modern retailers aim to be hangouts

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A trio of hip retailers is opening Chicago locations in Bucktown and Lincoln Park—but please don’t call them mere stores.

Eyewear label Warby Parker, watchmaker Shinola and socially conscious shoe and accessory brand Toms aim to create “third places”—destinations away from home and work where like-minded people can hang out, make connections and do something besides buy stuff.

“These newer brands are taking a different view toward what a physical store does and aren’t just looking at them as places for commerce,” says Neil Stern, a senior partner at McMillanDoolittle, a Chicago-based retail consultancy. “Everyone aspires to be Apple,” he says, referring to the stores’ accommodating atmosphere that sees scores of people using the free Wi-Fi. “These brands want to be the place (where) you hang out.” …

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Crain’s Chicago Business 11/29/2014

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