May 14, 2019 • Sarah Schwartz
Paper Source’s Chicago Lab Store is the testing ground
A first look at how its Lab Store is the testing ground for the brand’s slew of stores
As of February 2019, Paper Source has 129 stores dotting the 50 states. But its Lab Store, located in downtown Chicago’s famed Loop, stands out from the rest. Not only is the 1,800-square-foot space housed directly below the Paper Source corporate office, but it serves as a conduit for the evolution of the brand.
There, new collections, product launches, merchandising concepts and even technologies are tried out. Furthermore, HQ team members work in the store, so they can directly observe the response, explained Lizzie Casper, store manager. “(This way), they can better understand our customer and the needs of the business.”
Due to the Lab Store’s unique platform and location, it is something of a tourist destination; customers love having the opportunity to see the Lab Store’s exclusive product first and find that something special not yet at their local Paper Source. “They are even more delighted when they (learn) our corporate offices are just upstairs,” she added.
Each Paper Source caters to the distinctive interests of its community — and as such, the Lab Store attracts more than just the tourist trade — namely, those that work in the area. “We’re surrounded by many business and corporate offices, so we offer a happy place or brief relief during the work day,” Casper noted. “Our staff also takes pride in getting to know their customers and having a real interest in their projects or events.”
But, its entire clientele can enjoy that the Lab Store was the birth of many Paper Source staples. “The Balloon Spot came to life in the Lab Store,” described Casper. “The Balloon Spot features unique balloons, accessories — and staff who are able to create the ultimate custom balloon bouquet. Our store had many iterations of the actual fixture, inventory and training needed to introduce this to all stores. Our customers love the whimsy of the collection, and we love getting creative in curating the right assortment of balloons for their celebrations.”
Currently the Lab Store is trying out something that is appearing more and more — mobile checkout. “This allows our staff to move around the store with the customer and offers a quicker checkout during high traffic times,” she pointed out.
Regardless of what exactly is being tested in the Lab Store, “we use customer feedback to inform our strategy,” underlined Casper. “There have been refinements, but we have been pretty lucky and have been able to move forward with many initiatives.”
INTO THE LAB
In spite of its special status, in many ways the Lab Store is similar to other Paper Sources. Its clientele enjoys access to its curated assortment and services like gift wrapping, balloon styling and crafting workshops. It offers a wide range of gifts as personalized creations as well.
“You can find a finger hand puppet for $2 and exclusive entertaining or home décor pieces for about $50,” Casper detailed. “We also offer custom assortments including wedding Invitations and stationery available in many printing techniques to fit your budget.”
In order to better cater to each store’s distinctive clientele, individual Paper Sources have their own Instagram feeds — and the Lab Store is no different. “For us, it is important that we post early in the morning because so many of our customers are commuters,” Casper remarked. “So while they are scrolling through social on their bus or train, we can get their attention and let them know what is happening. Our location also opens earlier to ensure that customers are able to swing by on the way to work.”
With its signature blend of standout product and outstanding customer service, offset with a big sense of surprise — Paper Source’s Lab Store will serve as a beacon of the brand for some time to come.
“We use customer feedback to inform our strategy. We have been able to move forward with many initiatives.”
— Lizzie Casper