by Stephen Garner

Earlier this month, New York City-based menswear retailer Rothmans debuted its newest “TestShop” concept with Canadian outerwear brand Nobis.

The shop, which will officially open on September 26th with an opening reception, features a full collection of men’s, women’s, and children’s styles, a majority of which is waterproof, windproof and breathable. Slated to run through December 31st, Nobis will host various events and experiences that will include on-going integrated activations, including tasting and celebrity meet and greets, all of which will present an opportunity for New Yorkers to engage with the brand.

For Robin Yates, co-founder and vice president of Nobis, this new concept was a no-brainer. “We looked at what we spend on trade shows, and relevant to the agreement we were able to come up with here, this is about 15-times more cost-effective related to the time and space that we have here at Rothmans,” Yates says. “This shop allows us to reach our end consumer through a branded space we can control. And, with companies like Rothmans and TestShop where we are able to present the brand in a sophisticated way with educated sales staff which is key in selling such a technical product like ours, why wouldn’t we do it the best we could by partnering with these guys. We see this high-value opportunity that will help us meet the shifting needs and desires of today’s modern consumer.”

For those who haven’t heard of this new concept, TestShop is a new kind of pop-up-meets-concession model developed by Rothmans’ Ken Giddon and trade show veteran Mike Sampson.

The premise is that vendors will pay a specialty store to have access to a dedicated space where it can create and build-out its own brand presence. Then, brands have access to the retailer’s customer base as well as in-store activations and curated experiences during the course of when the shop is present. If all goes well, the idea is for the host retailer to add the brand they are testing to their permanent mix, but the retailer is under no obligation to do so once the “test” is complete.

“This idea was actually a brainchild of what happened in Las Vegas with my Commotion concept show last February. With the idea of finding more creative ways to bring product to market, Ken and I met at the store and discussed coming up with a way to bring the Commotion concept to the store level. It’s a pop-up shop that is more activated and experiential where a brand can express their full line and identity. You know, rather than Ken buying five styles, we can show everything without the significant risk of spending the money on a full mono-brand store.”

As Sampson notes, one of the main goals of TestShop is to alleviate the high-cost brand’s face when opening their own standalone pop-up shops, by saving them on rent, security deposits, staff, point-of-sale systems, and customer acquisitions. All of this while allowing a retailer to test out a new brand they haven’t bought before.

Rothmans is TestShop’s first client, which launched the concept earlier this year with Reyn Spooner. An AG pop-up will also be installed at the Union Square retailer later this fall.

Sampson further notes that Miltons –  The Store for Men in Braintree and Chestnut Hill, MA has also signed on as a TestShop client, with more retailers aiming to sign on in the near future.