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Brookstone Reborn As Innovation Incubator

Opens first new Makers Showcase store

Brookstone, the novelty tech gift and toy chain, lays claim to giving such now-established brands as Segway, Tempur-Pedic, Fitbit and iRobot an early start.

Now, the New Hampshire-based business is looking to double down on that first-to-market heritage with a new retail format — and the company’s R&D, manufacturing and global distribution muscle — to showcase and market innovative new products from the crowdfunding and maker communities.

The first incarnation of the Brookstone Plus Innovation & Retail Platform appeared last month in the guise of a renovated Brookstone store in the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y., long utilized as a retail laboratory by national chains.

The newly reborn Brookstone Makers Showcase store is designed to give shoppers a hands-on experience with the product assortment, which includes crowdfunding campaigners from Indiegogo, inventors from Quirky and rising tech brands like Anker, Mobvoi and Royole.

Related: Meet Quirky’s Mother Of Invention

Store elements include a product demonstration stage, a sound-dampened Voice Box room for demo-ing audio devices, and frequent “Meet-the-Maker” events during peak traffic periods.

The showroom also employs advanced store analytics, provided by RetailNext, to determined customer traffic patterns, dwell time and conversion, while staffers and vendors collect feedback from customer interactions, whether at a Meet-the-Maker appearance or while engaging with the merchandise.

The data will allow Brookstone and its vendors to improve upon the store presentation, merchandising and product development.

“One of the advantages of selling in a brick-and-mortar store is that we get to meet customers in person and see their emotional responses when they interact with our product,” noted Xavier Peich, whose SmartHalo smart biking system is sold at the Garden City store. “Seeing customers’ first-hand reactions lets me know what’s working, what really matters to a customer, and what messages may need to be strengthened.”

Brookstone expects to retrofit at least 10 more of its 140 U.S. mall and airport stores this year, and to carry the concept to China, where its parent company, Sanpower Group, is based. It also plans to host a series of Innovation Competitions at universities, with select winning devices joining the Brookstone assortment.

“We’re bringing more than 50 years of retailing expertise to new makers,” said Brookstone operations VP Tom Connolly. “Getting people to experience new technologies and have fun is in our DNA. What Makers Showcase does is give makers and tech brands accelerated access to Brookstone stores and our innovation-minded customers across the U.S. and, in the near future, the world.”

Brookstone opened its first store in 1973 and was acquired in a bankruptcy sale by Sanpower and an investment consortium in 2014.

See: Brookstone Purchased For $136 Million

Brookstone plans to leverage its in-house product development unit, Brookstone Design USA, and the resources of its parent, a $21 billion private conglomerate with global interests in the tech and services sectors, to manufacture and distribute its product discoveries worldwide.

“Our vision,” added Connolly, “is that when a person walks into a Brookstone store anywhere in the world, they’ll experience the best innovations from all over the world.”