Cambridge, Mass.-based boutique retailer Concepts is undoubtedly a leading independent footwear retailer. Since its inception in 1996, Concepts has produced sought-after collaborations with brands, expanded its physical footprint and boosted its online presence. Tarek Hassan, co-owner of Concepts, spoke with Footwear News about the status of the retailer’s coming NYC location, the store’s bestsellers, Hassan’s favorite shoe collaborations and more.
What’s the update on your NYC store?
We’re opening the first week of November, on Nov. 7. New York has been asking us to be a part of the Big Apple, they believe we’ll bring something fresh and unique to New York, and the brands are very excited about this. I think it’s the beginning of something bigger than just New York for us — I see us going global. It’ll be retail and a pop-up shop at the same time. If a brand has an innovation, we will be the first to introduce it and educate the consumers in our stores. We’ll take a full section of the store and introduce it to the market in a meaningful way. Not just sell product, but also really educate the consumer.
What brands are you excited about?
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I’m always excited about what Nike has — that’s a brand you can rely on. I’m also excited about what New Balance is doing. I see a lot of excitement in New Balance right now — there’s a lot of energy happening there. I’m also looking forward to what Adidas is doing with Boost and Kanye, some of their running and the classic stuff. I’m seeing some excitement from Converse as well; I haven’t seen much product yet, but I know it’s in the works.
Are there any emerging labels you’re excited about?
This is the only year I’d say there’s not much going on in the brown-shoe industry, but I’m excited about what Birkenstock has done, bringing this whole old trend back and how focused and careful they are about distribution and how they’re marketing themselves. I’m enjoying what Birkenstock is doing because they are looking at the bigger picture — they’re in control of the marketing, they know they have to control who they sell to, they have to keep customers hungry. I’m also excited in the fall about Timberland, Sorel, Hunter.
What are the bestsellers at Concepts?
Our collaborations. Whoever we collaborate with, that will be our No. 1-selling item. Anything that Concepts puts its hands on will be our No. 1 seller. Collaborations from other well-respected stores also do really well for us.
Do you have a favorite Concepts collaboration?
It’s tough to pick a favorite since they all resonate differently with me. Right now, I would have to say the upcoming Nike and New Balance collaborations that will be releasing soon. It’s easy to pinpoint a successful project as my favorite, but we truly strive to make every project better than the last. I think consumers will appreciate the thoughts and effort put into both collaborations. We’ve never chosen the easy route, and this will be no exception.
You helped Brooks Heritage reintroduce the Beast silhouette. Why did Concepts collaborate with the brand on an untested shoe?
It’s an iconic style, and we felt it would make sense for Concepts. We love to bring iconic shoes out again — we like to be the one to introduce it again — it’s an honor. Brooks is a heritage brand and is well-respected, and it was the right time to reintroduce that style to the industry.