Home design site opens house to showcase brands

Discussion
Photo: Hunker
Feb 22, 2019
Matthew Stern

An online publication that covers everyday home design is entering the physical world — not with a print magazine, but with a house that will host influencers and showcase brand partners.

The media outlet, Hunker, is launching its first loft-style location, called Hunker House, in Venice, CA. Hunker will be bringing in digital influencers in the home goods/design space to stay in and speak at Hunker House. The venue will also offer workshops, panel discussions and industry mixers and will hold both public and private events.

Hunker’s aim is to allow its brand partners to “tell their stories and interact with consumers in a way that is approachable and true to the Hunker audience,” according to Jason Lapore, vice president and general manager of Hunker. The three-story location is planned as a permanent fixture, not a pop-up.

Hunker confirmed to RetailWire that the curated decor inside Hunker House consists of products made by partner brands and that the product on display will rotate throughout the year. The products in Hunker House are not for sale.

The Hunker House concept brings together a couple of different trends that have caught on in the retail world.

In its curated assortment of lifestyle-adjacent products, the location resembles experiential retail pioneers like STORY, which was acquired by Macy’s last year.

Retailers in a few spaces have recently been testing showroom concepts that encourage browsing, but carry little or no inventory for sale. Nordstrom in luxury apparel has proven successful with its Nordstrom Local showroom, introducing two more stores after the initial one-store launch. And Uniqlo has been playing with the idea in fast-fashion, with an inventory-less showroom in Tokyo.

But customers generally go into showrooms with the possibility of a purchase in mind. In a home and design lifestyle showcase like Hunker House, brands and their products are part of the ambient environment of the space.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the Hunker House concept a model for how brands will get their products in front of interested audiences in the years to come? Do you think experiential showcases like this should also include a sales opportunity for brands?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Nothing beats the customer experience of a showroom, especially for home products."
"It’s important to note that Hunker is a publisher, not a retailer, so what they offer brands is very different compared to a traditional showroom relationship."
"What’s the point of getting visitors excited about a new brand or product if they are not able to buy it?"

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9 Comments on "Home design site opens house to showcase brands"


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Min-Jee Hwang
Guest

Visitors to the Hunker House should absolutely have the opportunity to buy the brands that are on display. This is relatively easy to do with mobile technology, as products can be scanned and purchased directly on a phone or tablet. Being able to see items in action throughout the home would help buyers visualize uses and be more confident in their purchasing decisions.

Charles Dimov
Guest

Great example of showrooming. Specifically, this might be an ideal model for e-tailers with large or complex products. Perfect example, using home furnishings and goods.

The first step is to create these kinds of showrooms. However, I honestly feel that the next step from here is to have the ability to buy the goods right then and there… and either arrange for shipping, or to load it into your own car/truck. Ultimately, this is definitely the blending and blurring of channels … the omnichannel vision.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest

Nothing beats the customer experience of a showroom, especially for home products. The Hunker House is literally the STORY for home furnishings. A major challenge is scale. How does a physical space that does not sell products pay for the space and staff? Will the featured brands pay the bill? In today’s omnichannel world, Hunker House may conceivably have a business model IF customers can place a real time order to get what they want, in two days or less, delivered to their home, for free, and preferably installed. To achieve financial success that scales, the model will have to have exceptional, end to end, seamless service. That’s a tall order for any retailer, but exceptionally difficult for a startup without infrastructure.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

One of the highlights of visiting a model home is being surrounded by beautiful decor, one of the frustrations is not knowing where it can be purchased.

What’s the point of getting visitors excited about a new brand or product if they are not able to buy it? And how many times will Hunker House’s brand partners want to participate without a payback? It makes no sense to get visitors excited about a product without sharing where to buy it.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Aspiration, inspiration, full psyche immersion into the world of Hunker. Hunker House is the physicality of the Hunker vision. A real-world foil of the all things Hunker. A physically immersive experience for those whose consciousness is exhilarated by the Hunker taste, style, and simple utility. Commercialization, the act of selling products, defeats the immersion experience. Brilliant venue, deeply reflective of the digital Hunker.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust

Experiential concepts like Hunker House and STORY let customers experience a brand’s lifestyle firsthand. This is much more effective than VR imaging, where customers can’t give products the touch test and may be distracted by the technology. Instead, these concepts create something real, immersive, and tangible — which is the perfect foundation to build lifelong relationships with customers.

Gabriela Baiter
Staff

Love the commentary here. It’s important to note that Hunker is a publisher, not a retailer, so what they offer brands is very different compared to a traditional showroom relationship. In this case, Hunker is offering brands exposure to their design savvy audience in the form of published content generated from the house.

If you compare this to other multi-brand showrooms (Showfields NYC), the guaranteed reach is a unique benefit that is likely to generate sales among their digital savvy readers when they are ready.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

The products on display are presumably not available to buy directly from Hunker House, but of course will be from the brands themselves. It’s an interesting concept that continues a trend for content companies and curators to move into retail, but it’s key that customers can buy what they’re inspired by. After all that’s how the advertiser/publisher relationship has always worked.

Customers will be looking to Hunker House for its trusted opinion and eye for design. If the brand gets this right, then it’s only natural that people will want to buy what’s being recommended to them. I think if Hunker House doesn’t want to handle the sales elements itself, but to focus more on the experience and the content, then they need to find ways to clearly signpost customers to ways to buy — such as brand websites or the ability to quickly find a product on your smartphone (via visual search, QR code etc) and complete the purchase online.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

It’s one design and the concept is not new. Almost all retailers in design and home goods from TJX to Ikea have a format that showcases designs — including Home Depot and Lowe’s. The key difference is the storeroom in the back and the POS out front that lets customers take the products home. There may be certain opportunities for highly specialized or rare goods, but it’s difficult to see it as a mainstream model. At best, it will replace or supplement the circular.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Nothing beats the customer experience of a showroom, especially for home products."
"It’s important to note that Hunker is a publisher, not a retailer, so what they offer brands is very different compared to a traditional showroom relationship."
"What’s the point of getting visitors excited about a new brand or product if they are not able to buy it?"

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