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Tim Armstrong wants to create Coachella, but for retailers. What does that mean?

Armstrong is getting into the events business. We think.

Tim Armstrong onstage at Code Commerce 2019 in Las Vegas.
Tim Armstrong at Code Commerce 2019 in Las Vegas.
Adam Tow

Until recently, Tim Armstrong was the CEO of Oath, the joint AOL-Yahoo mashup owned by Verizon that didn’t end very well.

Now he’s the CEO of the dtx company, an investment company focused on pumping money into small direct-to-consumer retail brands.

But Armstrong hasn’t left behind the worlds of media and entertainment altogether. At least that’s what it sounds like. Dtx has plans for some kind of retail experience — another merger, in fact — that Armstrong has called a mix of the Coachella music festival and the Consumer Electronics Show.


“I was intentionally vague,” Armstrong said about his previous comments on Sunday night at Recode’s Code Commerce event in Las Vegas. “Strangely vague.”

Here’s how Armstrong described the events after some prodding from Recode’s Jason Del Rey and Kara Swisher.

“It’ll be a programmed entertainment and retail experience,” he said. “Everybody’s launching a flagship store in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London. There are tremendous consumers in other parts of the country and in the world who would benefit greatly from having direct interactions with those brands.”

So Armstrong envisions a festival — or a show or a conference or something — where online-only or online-mostly retailers get a chance to interact with people who don’t necessarily live in the world’s biggest cities.

Will it be like a giant mall?

“Probably less mall,” he said.

So outdoors, like on a grass field?

“Sand, grass, turf.”

Will there be entertainment?

“Entertainment, food, beverage, retail.”

Will people pay?

“People will pay and we’ll sell things.”

Well, it’s an interesting idea. Though it is, as Armstrong said, “strangely vague.” Armstrong says he’s talked about his experience idea in meetings and people will respond by asking if he’s seen the recent Netflix and Hulu documentaries about the Fyre Festival, which was an epic disaster.

“We’re hiring people who are experts at it,” he said reassuringly.

The concept, though, at a very high level, is not all that bizarre. As more and more people shop online, direct-to-consumer retailers have grown tremendously. And while it may seem counterintuitive, the prevalence of online shopping can actually create a need for more in-person retail interactions. We’ve seen some direct-to-consumer brands open physical retail stores in places like Plano, Texas. Even direct-to-consumer superstars such as Warby Parker and Casper have been moving into brick-and-mortar.

“Having someone have a physical interaction with brands or experiences and what it does with their online or mobile consumption is really important,” Armstrong said.

But whether Armstrong’s vision turns out to be Beychella or a cheese sandwich remains to be seen.

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