Coworking in a fancy department store is the new normal, according to this CEO

When was the last time you went shopping in a store? OK if you’re a shopaholic like me and live in one of the greatest cities for shopping then maybe this question is dumb but for most people shopping is something you do on your phone or at home on your laptop while you binge Netflix and have some wine. As a result of the explosion of e-commerce, stores have seen a major decrease in foot traffic which means they are looking for alternative ways to bring in the money.

Now though we all love that we don’t have to leave the house anymore or even our seat to buy literally anything we do like to get up and leave our house when it comes to our jobs. Coworking spaces seem to be springing up everywhere (It is a WeWork world and we just live in it) from restaurants to people’s houses and now to your local boutique or department store. And out of all those options, working in a beautifully designed store surrounded by lovely objects and decor sounds like when Courduroy gets lost at the department store except, you know, you’re at work answering emails. Well, if that’s what you are looking for you are in luck because Showfields, a multi-brand retail store, just opened up its newly redone fourth floor as a free co-working space (the only requirement is to sign up for their newsletter.)

showfields coworking space
Courtesy Showfields

Showfields isn’t the first retailer to dabble in the coworking space as Rent the Runway partnered with WeWork (which also purchased Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in Manhattan last year to open up some of the floors for coworking) on a clothing dropoff for their mutual customers. Lululemon also has designated community spaces for their clientele to come work in during the day. Malls, another endangered species (given an almost relic-like status in Season 3 of Stranger Things) are also converting areas for coworking. You are also seeing more restaurants and fitness spaces designate or repurpose areas for people to grab their laptop and get some work done.

So is it just a desperate move for retailers to stay afloat or is this capturing a bigger trend in this ever-blending world of businesses and highly-curated experiences? Ladders spoke with Tal Zvi Nathanel, CEO and cofounder of Showfields about all of it.

Why are we seeing this blending of worlds between commerce and community workspaces and now Showfields?

The big picture of what we are seeing is the evolution of the customer–and as a result the evolution of retail. Customers today are looking for more things that just shopping; anyone can do that online. Now, customers are looking for the 5 C’s of “consumer commerce”: connection, convenience, content, curation, and community. These things can’t be achieved online, so as the customer evolves, so does retail.

But it’s not easy; if you are a mature brand, changing your business model and all of your retail locations is difficult; if you are an emerging brand, you have added flexibility but might not be able to take on the expense. That’s why only a few select brands have succeeded in transitioning from traditional retail models to modern versions, but those that are doing it well – from Rent the Runway to Lululemon and now SHOWFIELDS – are killing it, and that’s because they have evolved to incorporate new elements, such as community workspaces, into their stores.

What is the strategy behind making this a coworking space?

The purpose of SHOWFIELDS is twofold: to ‘flip the formula’ of traditional retail and focus entirely on the consumer experience, and to give brands a platform for the next phase of commerce–”Consumer Commerce” or “C-Commerce.” The five pillars of C-Commerce are convenience, community, curation, content, and connection.

Our strategy in making our fourth floor a coworking space centered around leaning into the community pillar of C-Commerce. We want Showfields to be a space where like-minded people can come together and build connections, and that’s exactly what they can do in the coworking space: get work done while simultaneously building relationships and sharing ideas.

showfields coworking space
Courtesy Showfields

How would the experience of working at Showfields differ from a WeWork or The Wing?

The biggest difference is that when you work at Showfields, you’ll also have the opportunity to discover all of the incredibly interesting brands, products, and experiences on floors one, two and three! Our coworking space is just another unique element of our overall space, as opposed to its sole purpose–which also explains why we don’t require a membership. Anyone, and everyone, are welcome to use the coworking space for free! All you have to do is sign up for our newsletter, which you can do online in advance or onsite in an instant. The space also features free WiFi, plenty of seating, and even a roof deck terrace if you prefer sending emails in the sunshine.

What have been some of the challenges of starting this coworking space in the venue?

We’re still in the early stages, but the biggest challenge we’ve seen thus far is that people think it’s too good to be true–they can’t believe the coworking space is free! Guests want to know what the ‘catch’ is, but in truth there is no catch: we are simply happy to have customers in our space to help build our community.

How do you decide what brands to work with?

We seek out brands that are consumer-centric, design-oriented, and mission-driven, and feature a mix of brands you might have heard about and some that will be brand new and give you a reason to return again and again. Whether a category leader or an emerging brand, all brands at Showfields have a strong voice! We’re currently working with 40+ brands throughout SHOWFIELDS, and regularly invite up-and-coming and ‘need to know’ brands to rotate into the space so that visitors always have something new to discover at Showfields.