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Eric Feigenbaum

Retail in Paradise

Hawaii’s ubiquitous ABC Stores have everything the traveler could possibly need




THE SHORT DRIVE from Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to Waikiki takes no more than 15 minutes on a light traffic day. Yes, there is traffic in Honolulu. Turning on to Kalakaua Avenue (Hawaii’s “Fifth Avenue,”), Waikiki‘s luxury retail corridor, reveals the expected high-end stores from Tiffany and Chanel to Gucci, Moncler, Bottega Veneta, Dior, Yves St. Laurent and Hermès to Harry Winston. Additionally, The International Marketplace located in the heart of Kalakaua, anchors Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach resort area with name brands such as Brunello Cucinelli, Burberry and Balenciaga.

Perfectly positioned, in an ironic sort of way, is a hidden gem, perhaps the heart and soul of this island paradise. Duke’s Marketplace, a celebration of Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit, located directly adjacent to the upscale International Marketplace, proudly displays its more than 89 kiosks and stalls. The landmark flea market-like lane features everything from sarongs and ukuleles to handmade jewelry, Hawaiian shirts, local artwork, as well as an assortment of island crafts. Moreover, the individually owned stalls allow long-time local Hawaiians to pursue their business within a small ecological footprint.

As balance between old and new, high-end and attainable, and local and global persists, the true retail hero in Waikiki is the ubiquitous ABC Stores. The chain was founded in 1964 by Sidney Kosasa who opened his first store in Waikiki under the name “Mister K.” Now called ABC Stores, there are upwards of 40 locations in the less than four square miles of Waikiki on Oahu, Hawaii’s most populated island. Simply stated, any short walk down Kalakaua Avenue or any intersecting or parallel streets will certainly reveal an ABC store. They even occupy space in the toniest of hotel lobbies and the most off-the-beaten-trail back streets.

While the high-end stores along the avenue are aspirational, the secret of ABC’s success is the luxury of having necessities right at travelers’ fingertips. Offering everything a traveler could possibly want, including salads, sandwiches, pharmaceuticals, wine, cosmetics, beach towels, Hawaiian shirts and souvenirs, the store is brilliantly merchandised. There is never an empty shelf or a wilted leaf of lettuce. The food offerings are always fresh, and the walls, shelves and free-standing fixtures are always well stocked, organized and clean.

Though the aesthetics are pleasant, customer service is at the highest level: Everyone is greeted with a heartfelt “aloha,” and sent away with a gracious “mahalo” (thank you). While the beaches are calling and the sunsets are spectacular, the ever-present ABC Stores are always there. Sell them what they need, and you won’t have to worry about selling a thing…

📷 Eric Feigenbaum, New York




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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