Shinola and #BEENTRILL#: Winning at Click + Mortar

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Bricks and clicks, a.k.a. clicks and bricks, a.k.a. click and mortar, a.k.a. clicks and flips, a.k.a. <insert label du jour> is a business model that integrates on and offline locations. Or, as we call them “stores.” As digital is increasingly a huge revenue driver for businesses there's a growing trend of bridging on and offline. By merging the two, brands are creating an experience that builds customer loyalty and encourages social sharing. We recently visited the physical locations of two formerly online only brands Shinola and #BEENTRILL#


Whether or not you “keep it trill in the streets,” you’ve gotta admit #BEENTRILL# is onto something. A brand defined by “the frenzy of new youth culture found on the deep web and blocks of big cities,” #BEENTRILL# makes t-shirts you’ll never wear and mixtapes you’ll likely never listen to. The digital experience has stayed true to their manifesto and bucked convention; emojis for navigation, windows 98-style pop-ups, full-screen pixelated videos, and an eBay widget featuring their product being resold.

2013 was a big year for them, and when it came to opening a flagship they opted for 271 Canal, a knockoff mall in the heart of Chinatown. And despite being sandwiched between fake Louis Vuitton bags and suspiciously cheap Jordans, the location makes perfect sense. That’s because they’ve stayed true to their brand; irreverent, tongue-in-cheek, so wavy, and with a little bit of everything all the time. If you could walk through the “deep web” this is what it would look, smell, and sound like. It’s an experience that’s daring for the consumer and the brand, and that’s really refreshing.

As an indecipherable Kanye remix played, one of the two hazed-out employees asked me “so low-key, right?” “Absolutely” I said, grabbing change for a shirt that won’t leave the back of my closet.



Instead of spending another decade talking about Detroit’s “dire situation” someone’s actually doing something. Heath Carr, a Texas entrepreneur smarter than you, recently bought the defunct shoe wax brand Shinola and has transformed it into a bike, leather goods, and watch manufacturer. With a new lease on life, Shinola has moved operations to the historic Argonaut Building in the heart of Detroit. It’s a great American “can do” story and (despite their blasé online experience) chances are you’ve been exposed to them through countless tweets, instagram photos, blog features, interviews, and videos.

Outside the confines of Chinatown (much less Detroit), Shinola has chosen Tribeca as the location of their first physical retail space and flagship. The storefront doubles as a cafe that features an impeccably curated collection of magazines. This rare attention to service coupled with an obvious appreciation of craftsmanship and design creates a potent mix. Sit down, have an espresso, chat about watches, take your time.

What’s devoid is a heavy handed narrative on “how we’re doing something new in Detroit.” It’s all about the products and lifestyle, as it should be. And with that approach, a $50,000 silk American flag from the 1820s doesn't seem so outlandish merchandised next to leather baseball mitts and plastic rulers made in Detroit. Frankly, they can’t seem to do anything wrong. And If you’re not intrigued to check them out, then you don't know shit from Shinola.


The holy grail for marketers these days is all about “creating an experience” for customers. Shinola and and #BEENTRILL# have nailed “experience” and are reaping the benefits by doing three things:

  1. This one is kinda “no-duh,” but they’re unapologetically on-brand. The music, the imagery, and even the smell reinforce everything that makes them unique. Both locations felt closer to a Pinterest inspiration board than a traditional boutique.
  2. They’ve brought the online dialogue offline, no matter how esoteric. Customers are really smart and want to be part of your clique. So, tell some inside jokes. A 3D crystal etching of Chief Keef might not make sense to everyone, but to a #BEENTRILL# buyer it’s hilarious.   
  3. They’re encouraging non-linear exploration, just like you do online. What’s a store? Where’s a store? These boundaries appear defined in the physical world, but they don’t have to be. An off-beat location creates an experience much larger than the square footage of the store. J. Crew Liquor Store proved this six years ago, and other brands (ahem Nike) are finally catching up.

If a customer can connect with the brand through an “experience” they’ll likely spend more and spend more often. As for us, we’ll gladly embrace a new, different shopping experience... and with our wallets out.



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