Future Stores Seattle 2020

June 02 - 05, 2020

The Sheraton Seattle

DIRTY LEMON Opens Their First Store with no Staff



For those not in the know, DIRTY LEMON is a delicious little start-up born through consumer trends and distribution innovation.

Founded in 2015, the company specializes in health drinks formulated to detox, energize, and most importantly hydrate. But DIRTY LEMON doesn't operate like your average company. Until recently, the only way to obtain its products was via text message.

The company very much has its finger on the pulse of today's trends, becoming a hit with celebrities such Community/Glow actress Alison Brie, fashion designer Pia Arrobio, singer Cardi B, and socialite Kim Kardashian. This is no mean feat considering its unusual distribution method, minimalist website, and a publicity campaign confined almost entirely to Instagram and Facebook.

DIRTY LEMON didn't even have a single storefront. All its products were ordered by text and shipped the next day. In September, however, it opened its first store in its native New York's trendy Lower Manhattan Neighborhood of Tribeca -- an area lined with cobbled streets and boutiques, home to the renowned film festival, and now the home of a retail revolution.

Changing the Face of Retail

The DIRTY LEMON store, named The Drug Store, consists of two parts. First, there is a VIP lounge equipped with a bar tailored towards special events. Second, there's the street-facing shop front which is completely unstaffed.

"We're moving beyond experiential marketing and into experimental. This type of engagement enables the convenience customers have come to expect from our brand. Our customer prefers conversational interaction" explains DIRTY LEMON co-founder and CEO, Zak Normandin. "We're committed to a transaction process that eliminates all unnecessary steps."

The space consists of a wall of refrigeration units packed with the various flavors of DIRTY LEMON beverages, an information terminal, a mirrored wall to encourage customers to take selfies post-purchase, and not a lot else.

While we use the term "post-purchase," there's nothing to force customers at The Drug Store to hand over their hard-earned cash. Patrons simply enter the store, open the fridge, take what they want, with the assumption they will then pay for what they take. Customers text DIRTY LEMON with the number printed on the bottles, informing them of their purchase and DIRTY LEMON send them a secure link to enter their card details, and that's it.

It's like a 21st Century honesty box.

When he was asked about the concept, Normandin explained, "A lot of brands are struggling in retail right now. They are starting to shift marketing dollars into digital to keep customers engaged. That creates a challenging situation for us, because we have relied on digital marketing to grow our following, but we are ironically now shifting dollars to physical retail."

While the company anticipates some loss, either through outright theft or simple absent-mindedness from legitimate customers, they intend to mark this up as tasting expenses and the cost of running a new kind of innovative store.

But Will it Work?

Whether the staff-less concept of The Drug Store is viable in the long term, only time will tell. And, while DIRTY LEMON's range of health conscience beverages are popular right now, are they merely a trend perpetuated by social media and celebrity, or a product which is here to stay?

The Drug Store's strength, however, like the company as a whole, lies in its connection with its clientele, making them feel like they're a part of something, immersing them in the product, and creating an experience. That's why the store has no staff and a mirrored selfie wall and why their Instagram account has very little to do with the actual product, focusing instead on shareable memes and other content.

"We believe in the power of experience and building community, and this achieves that in a big way," said Normandin "By creating a physical experience and community around a location, I think we're able to build much more longevity with consumers."

It's also here where The Drug Store's VIP lounge comes into play. VIP members, customers who purchase at least a case of DIRTY LEMON beverages a month (six bottles), will get exclusive access to a 1,300-square-foot cocktail bar which will host movie screenings and tasting events -- an idea which proved a crowd pleaser when the company had a pop-up store in 2017, and where two future best-selling flavors received their trial run.

Final Thoughts

It's a business model DIRTY LEMON certainly has faith in, as they already have three more stores in the pipeline. It represents the kind of futuristic store technology we've come to know and love from these types of innovative brands.


You can hear DIRTY LEMON's co-founder and CEO Zak Normandin speak at Future Stores 2019, being held in June, at The Sheraton, Seattle.

Please download the agenda today for more information and insights.