As we approached the new Hollister store on Broadway and Houston last night, we were overcome by the scent of cologne before the shirtless lifeguards standing outside even came into view. Abercrombie has been marketing the store as "epic," and is clearly intent on making everyone with a nose within a one-block radius aware of this. "Welcome to the pier," a pantsless girl said to us as we entered, because not only is the store "epic," it is apparently a dock that juts out into water. She wore only a bikini under an unbuttoned shirt. Hopefully in her state of undress she took some comfort in the shirtless male greeter standing next to her. Clearly, they are there to be ogled, but are shoppers really going to stop and stare at their abs while standing three feet away? Looking at a picture on a wall is one thing. But looking at a shirtless person in the flesh is something else entirely. In fact, we felt compelled to avert our gaze. Standing around in a bathing suit when 90 percent of people around you are clothed is awkward enough. We had no intention of heightening any awkwardness they might have felt.
True to Abercrombie form, the store is dimly lit with dark-wood interiors. It spans four levels over 40,000 square feet and is not an open space but is divided into rooms, not all of which connect. Kind of like a house. A creepy, techno-blaring house. This layout doesn't lend itself to easy, fast shopping. Who wants to comb through ten different rooms to find what they're looking for? We want to be able to look around, see the bathing suits or a sign that says the bathing suits are downstairs, and then easily proceed to the desired rack. Speaking of stairs, Hollister's are especially scary. They light up, which is nice, but are designed in such a way that it can be difficult to see where each step stops and starts. Even when sober.
All that said, the video of clear-blue ocean on the back wall was a nice touch. But we might have preferred a window.