by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times has a story about discount clothing chain Century 21, which opened in New York in 1961 and offers “off-price designer clothes, shoes, accessories and home goods, which is to say, slightly out of season or overstock, in an atmosphere where service may range between warm and war-torn. For those willing to dig for their bargains (and defend them once in hand), it is practically a holy site.”

While the stores have been successful for generations, ownership has decided that to reach the next generation of shoppers, it needs to sand down the rougher edges and rough-and-tumble atmosphere, and offer a more millennium-friendly experience - in addition to discount prices, management has “buffed the space and its offerings to an Instagram-ready gleam … New to the store are young or under-the-radar labels like Adam Selman, Olympia Le-Tan, Trademark and Maison Mayle, sourced by Ms. Miller. Upstairs, Proenza Schouler hangs not far from a rack of Fenty Puma by Rihanna.” (I must confess, in the interest of full disclosure, that I have no idea what any of these things are.)

There’s even a mirror said to be particularly good for taking selfies.

The goal, the story says, is to create a more supportive atmosphere, such as “a side-by-side manicure at the second-floor nail art bar,” or a “matcha latte at the second-floor Chalait coffee and tea bar.”

It is, I think, another way to approach the subject Tom Furphy and I discussed in this morning’s Innovation Conversation. - the importance of creating a millennium-friendly environment that is both aspirational and value-driven. It is an approach that a lot of retailers could adopt as they seek ways to be competitive in a tough marketplace.

It is, I think, an Eye-Opener.