The story behind the Times store

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When Ed Nacional started at the New York Times as a design intern 13 years ago, the Times Store barely existed. It is now an ecommerce hub and a link to the Times community. With mugs, aprons, enamel pins and more, the store seeks to provide readers with a tangible connection to the brand and to represent The Times’ commitment to independent journalism.

“How do we bottle that into a product? Mr. Nacional, now the creative director of the sales team, said in a video interview, bringing a matte gray New York Times ceramic mug to his lips.

The hollow “T” cup, which sells on the website for $ 32, took almost a full year for the team to grow – which is not unusual. “Sounds like we’re doing swag,” said Mark Silver, vice president of commerce for The Times, “but we take it very seriously.” Every article created by the store should be as well researched and intentional as the newspaper report.

“Ed is the appearance guru of everything,” said Ryan Murphy, the store’s archivist, who helps the design team sort through The Times’ archival photo collection. Mr. Nacional and Mr. Silver use his knowledge to give the products historical significance. When the store’s first iteration launched online in 1999, Mr. Murphy had just completed an internship at the morgue, a basement treasure trove of more than six million Times archival photos of article clippings. and books. “There’s been a lot of talk about building a website like a store on this new thing called the Internet,” he said.

The store has become an extension of the morgue: a way for customers to order reprints of their favorite photos and items. In 2003, he also sold goods.

Today, archival material serves as inspiration for new products. One of the store’s most popular offerings is a Times story-inspired cooking apron. The Times’ typographers wore aprons to protect their clothes from ink when handling newsprint; the mortuary shared a few photos, many in black and white, of outfits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Next, Mr. Nacional was able to get his hands on an original typographer’s apron – in a striking teal hue – with the Courtesy of David Dunlap, Times Museum curator and former Times reporter. The store now sells aprons in this color. “Ed was able to turn the idea into something you can use in the kitchen,” Mr. Murphy said.

Other products are inspired by current Times projects, such as the Spelling Bee collection. Some are even built from scratch: to design the hollow “T” cup, Mr. Nacional tested the feel of dozens of cups in his hands (he and his wife collect vintage mugs) to get the right shape; then he spent weeks working with manufacturers in Brooklyn to create that shape and the perfect shade of gray – the color was finalized after at least 20 rejected paint mixes. “Maybe I drove them a little crazy,” Nacional said.

As soon as the team lands on a design they love, they must answer a key question: Can we really do this?

Javier Hernandez, the team’s supply chain manager, has the answers. “I rely on my suppliers to tell me, ‘This might not be a good idea; this fabric will not take these colors very well, ”he said. He sees his suppliers as creative partners as much as suppliers of goods. “They’re the ones who have the expertise,” he says.

Before the holiday shopping rush, the sales team typically has eight months to take a product from idea to reality. But even when designers and makers agree on a final plan, the manufacturing process can get in the way of plans – when mugs break in the oven in Brooklyn, for example. And, while 2020 was the store’s best financial year, according to Silver, like many retail operations, they also had to deal with issues related to the pandemic.

Mr Hernandez said it now takes longer for the store to receive products from suppliers, with some items taking twice as long to arrive due to supply chain delays – which is why his relationship with suppliers is so important. When one alerted him to an impending shortage of fleece, a material used in many clothing designs, he was able to develop a back-up plan before the holiday season.

Ultimately, the team hopes that every article produced by the store connects Times readers to the publication’s main mission. Mr Nacional said that while he sometimes feels silly to take an intense approach to small decisions, he then thinks about the depth with which reporters at The Times delve into their plans and feels rather emboldened. “It’s only fair to do justice to everything because we create the things that represent the brand,” he said. “It’s a tough challenge.

About Renee Williams

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