Adam Ketcheson is the Chief Marketing Officer of North.
In June I had the rare opportunity to join the team at North as they were on the brink of launching a revolutionary new product. It had been secretly in the works for more than four years - designed and built by a team that has since grown to more than 450 people. Just last month, our consumer team was honoured to bring that product to the world as we introduced Focals.
Today we’re ready for the next stage of that introduction: Two North Showrooms - one in Brooklyn and one in Toronto - where customers can go to get custom-fitted Focals. Both of these Showrooms are open today. Customers can either schedule an appointment online or just drop by either location during business hours.
Connected, But Present
Entering into the tech world was a big change in scenery for me. For nearly two decades I’ve been leading retail and marketing for leading outdoor brands like The North Face and Arc’teryx Equipment; companies focused on getting people outside, connected with their environments and, most importantly, with other people. That ethos of living your best life - connected but still present in the world - is also critical to the work we’re doing here at North. We believe that technology should be there when you need it, gone when you don’t - delivering useful information and connecting you to the people you care about rather than sucking you into yet another app vortex.
The experience of wearing Focals is pretty powerful. Having a holographic display floating an arm’s length away from you is unlike anything else. The actions you take wearing Focals (messages, Uber, Alexa, calendar, etc.) are invisible to everyone else - but are quick, useful and effortless to you.
Telling the world about that experience was an incredible moment for the North team. The reception was awesome, the feedback has been incredibly positive and amount of curiosity around the experience has been exciting to watch.
The key reason we’ve launched our Showrooms is to to take that experience out of the theoretical and put it in the hands of our customers.
Brooklyn and Toronto, Here We Come
For this kind of product, retail is incredibly important. Focals are essentially a brand new technology, one customers haven’t seen or tried before. Giving people the chance to feel, see and try Focals is the difference between them guessing at what the display could look like and their face lighting up when they see it for the first time.
The Showrooms we’ve built to house that experience mirror what I love about Focals: simple clean design, married with mind-blowing technology. Each one leans into the existing aesthetics of premium eyewear stores, but conceals technology inside. We worked with the awesome team at Envelope A+D, an award-winning architectural practice based in San Francisco as a partner in bringing the retail experience to life. With their help, we put emphasis on light woods and warm materials to ensure our spaces feel approachable and modern.
While we’ve spent a lot of time getting the materials and flow right, ultimately our success at these Showrooms comes down to the human interactions we’ll have in store. We’ve hired an amazing crew of retail staff and opticians who will be ready to meet and help customers who visit our showrooms.
We’re intentionally starting small in Brooklyn and Toronto to make sure we take the time to build great experiences with our customers, listening to them and iterating accordingly. These two cities help define modern culture and are fantastic starting places for us to grow from. I’ll keep you all in the loop as we make plans for new locations. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see you all in our new Showrooms!