industry insider | Dec 19, 2019 |
1stdibs to shutter New York gallery

Less than a year after opening its West Side gallery, 1stdibs has announced it will shutter the space. Citing disruptive construction in the Terminal Stores building, the online luxury platform will close the 45,000-square-foot showroom on February 19.

The Terminal Stores building was bought in September by L&L Holding Co., Normandy Real Estate Partners and an unidentified institutional investor, who plan to transform half of the building’s 1.2 million square feet into office space. The renovations have already begun and will render both the freight and passenger elevators unusable for large swaths of time, a complication that 1stdibs says makes running an upscale gallery untenable.

“At the end of the day, we felt that in order to operate the gallery as a luxury experience, the construction was going to make it really difficult to move forward,” says Cristina Miller, chief commercial officer at 1stdibs.

There are currently no plans to reopen the gallery, though Miller says that the online luxury retailer did look at dozens of other spaces. “The location we’re in now is incredibly unique and special,” she says. “It took us a long time to find the current space and we weren't able to find something that we could seamlessly move into. We looked and couldn’t find anything suitable.”

1stdibs moved into the Terminal Stores building after leaving the 10th floor of the New York Design Center—a space now occupied by The Gallery at 200 Lex, which partners with 1stdibs competitor InCollect for shopping technology. To entice dealers to join them, 1stdibs offered a compelling rental price (one dealer told BOH that he spent more keeping pieces in storage than showing at the new gallery) and the promise of a marketing push and regular industry events.

Over the past ten months, some of the original roster of dealers had left. Modern Drama, Costantini, Charles Burnand, Pascal Boyer and Highland Park had all departed the space. There were also new signups, including Vitra, Wyeth and FK Gallery.

Some participating dealers lamented the passing of the gallery. “We had solid sales there,” says Jake Baer, president of Newel gallery. “I was looking forward to seeing where it was going in another year. If they try again, I would do it in a heartbeat.” Others took a more philosophical view. “I enjoyed the experience, it was a beautiful showroom. 1stdibs did try to make something different and groundbreaking as they always do,” says Francis Lord, president of Milord Antiques. “In the end, they’re not a brick and mortar business.”

The space was conceived to give buyers a way to physically experience the pieces that the digital-first platform offers, but Miller says the gallery was also intended to create a community center of sorts for the design industry: “We've hosted so many events there and talks for the trade. It’s touched on so many of our innovation goals and we’ve been really, really happy with it.”

Miller says that, financially, though the gallery made up a tiny portion of 1stdibs's inventory (less than one percent), the space had a record month in November and sales throughout the past 10 months have exceeded expectations. She also shares that a third of the customers coming into the space were new to the platform.

“We were on the up and up, and that’s one of the reasons that it's so disappointing that we need to exit the space. We were so happy with the gallery and we're proud of it. It’s very sad to have to close it.”

Homepage photo: Courtesy of 1stdibs

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