Monday, December 3, 2012

The Design Bloggers Pop Up for Christmas

This weekend two bloggers with international acclaim, both hailing from Melbourne, hosted very similar pop up events on either side of the river.

On the south side in Windsor, Lucy Feagins repossessed someone's castle for The Design Files Open House. In its second year (in 2011 it was hosted in Fitzroy), it's a concept that usually needs explaining more than once apparently.

'Does someone actually live here?' Yep
'You empty the whole house just for four days?' Yep.
'Everything here is for sale?' Yep.
'Is the house for sale!?' No.

And it's that last part that's unfortunate because 27 Eastbourne St is gorgeous. A two-storey converted warehouse with polished concrete and wooden floors, a high A-frame roof with exposed trusses and clean white walls give it a real gallery type feel.

The Design Files team have filled it with beautiful pieces by their favourite brands - furniture designers Jardan, Finnish design house Marimekko, Luke Furniture, Loom rugs and vintage purveyors Tarlo & Graham to name a few. Pieces from artists like Elizabeth Barnett, Kirra Jamison and Oslo Davis adorn the walls. It wouldn't be an event in this city without coffee - served up by Market Lane in the bricked courtyard under the Emily Green paper chandeliers.

It's everything you see in Lucy's famed blog, the blog that's seen her named in London's The Times as one of the world's top 50 design bloggers. And this was our opportunity to buy into that.

Back in the car to drive north along Melbourne's notorious Punt Road. Time to see what Bill Tikos had on offer.

Bill Who I hear you ask? Perhaps The Cool Hunter rings a bell. Now based in Sydney, he claims more than 2 million monthly website visits, almost 200,000 newsletter subscribers and 260,000 Twitter followers. Collingwood's Rokeby Studios is the first stop for The Cool House pop-up boutique on it's global tour which also lands in Sydney, New York and London.

The studio has been packaged up into rooms - bedroom, loungeroom, kitchen and dining, just like Feagin's but without the family in residence. There's even an area dedicated to pooches and a beautiful floral installation prepared by Melbourne designer Paul Hecker for Fleur's Florist in Armadale. There's furniture by Zuster, bird shaped letterboxes from Tikos' Playso brand and uncannily enough Loom Rugs and Jardan make an appearance. What better way to promote The Cool Hunter network than with a competition - subscribe on the spot to go in the draw to win that damn sexy Porsche parked in the entrance.

It's no surprise that these two events should take place on the same weekend. It is after all, time to unveil the advent calendars and capture consumers in the mad dash to Christmas. And rather than the retailers pushing product at bloggers for the typical seasonal advertorial, these events are being initiated by the aficionados of good design themselves. The celebrity like status of Feagins and Tikos mean these curated collaborations have more pulling power than the your local design market. Being selected alongside a handful of other brands by someone with more than 200,000 followers provides an exposure that fistfuls of marketing dollars can't buy.

It doesn't need to be an open house and it doesn't need to be a design blogger, but don't underestimate the power of this channel for selling your product because bloggers deliver captive eyeballs and an opening of wallets.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our Own Etail Frenzy

On Tuesday it was announced that we here in Australia are going to be blessed with our own form of the US online retail discounting event, 'Cyber Monday'. Next Tuesday from 7pm will see up to 150 retailers slash their online prices - by between 15 and 90 per cent - for 24 hours for Click Frenzy. Dubbed by marketers as “the sale that stops a nation” (ah Spring Racing Carnival references), they’re predicting “Click Frenzy will be the most spectacular event in Australia’s online retail history.”

There are some big names signed on, including Myer, Westfield, Target, Dick Smith, Jeanswest, Dan Murphy’s, Saba, Priceline and Adairs to name but a few. This level of participation indicates that there has finally been a shift in the mindset of mainstream retailers to embrace e-commerce rather than bemoan both local and international online competitors eating into their sales. Harvey Norman’s absence from the list perhaps suggests though, that not quite all doubters have jumped onboard for the digital ride to the future!

These bricks and mortar retailers will truly be going head to head with their online competitors, as pure e-tailers such as Kogan, The Iconic, StyleTread and Booktopia will also be involved in Click Frenzy. Now we’ll be able to assess who’s really offering us the best deals.

Click Frenzy is going to expose just how geared up these retailers are for trading in a store that fits into your iPad – or even more challenging, into your mobile. Has there been the same attention to detail paid to the UX (user experience) of their site as there is to the layout and merchandising of their physical stores? Have they invested in round the clock technical support for the site like they invest in staff training? Have they increased their bandwidth to cope with “the enormous concurrent traffic volumes” projected next week?

There’s been enough talk about the move to online – now’s the time for action. Cyber Monday was introduced in the US back in 2005… a whopping 7 years ago! In that time the rest of the world’s managed to catch on; UK, Germany, Portugal, Canada, even Chile and our neighbours New Zealand.

And if the digital clouds do fall down next Tuesday it will still be a win for e-commerce in this country. The intense focus on the event will drive home to retailers that they need to pay just as much focus to this sales channel as they do to traditional stores. It can only mean a better offering for us consumers at the end of the day. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Perfect Package

There’s always something lovely to covet in the emails delivered by the Selfridges marketing team. The clean and simple layout is a continual tease with the beautiful international apparel, cosmetics and homewares that far exceed my budget. This week was no exception – Urban Survival.

The call to action - “Summer in the city can be simply frightful so we’ve called on our friends at Mulberry and Barbour to create the most darling packs full of urban essentials, exclusively for us.” Boom. Here’s my chance as a consumer to pick up an exclusive collection by some of my favourite brands. Broad pricing – starting from £50 for a Kiehls kit up to £1,500 for the Mulberry Emma Hill urban survival backpack, gives consumers of all budgets the power to purchase.

selfridges urban survival 1

The point is that this is just another example of what Selfridges do so well – creating an authentic story to package up and sell brands. Ex-CEO Victorio Radice had vision when he announced he wanted to recreate Selfridges as 'the house of brands'. This is their mantra. They collaborate with their brands to come up with exclusive offerings unique to Selfridges for a multitude of exciting promotions – from the Big Bang celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee, to Project Ocean and their 100th birthday celebrations back in 2009.

At a time when our major department stores are scrambling to remain relevant you’d hope such an initiative to be contagious. But this approach isn’t just applicable to the big players. Any retailer stocking a selection of brands should be thinking about how they can partner together to come up with unique ways to stimulate demand. Leveraging events is one of the easiest opportunities but remember, your offer needs to be original.

selfridges urban survival 2 selfridges urban survival 3

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Light Fantastic

Incorporating fluorescent tubes into window displays are all the rage in Holland this season.

Here are three of the best I saw there in the past fortnight.

Pull & Bear, Rotterdam
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de Bijenkorf, Amsterdam – this works really well with the cityscape theme
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Marc-Cain, Rotterdam
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Thursday, June 7, 2012


Showcasing small products like cosmetics, eyewear and footwear is always a challenge regardless of the size of a store. Many such retailers opt for a smaller store footprint, as there’s less to compete for a customer’s attention and rents are cheaper. But that comes with it’s own set of problems – bumping into other customers, bags knocking items off shelves and having nowhere to hide from the over-enthusiastic assistant’s greeting, when all you want to do is browse.

Premium Dutch footwear retailer, ShoeBaloo turned that practice on its head when they selected a huge 375sqm sized space back in 2006 for their Rotterdam store. To put that in perspective it’s up to four times the size of your average boutique shoe store.  A vast hall of mirrored ceiling and black flooring with mirrored topcoat reflects the walls – each lined with asymmetrical moulded alcoves wrapped in white leather. Ever-changing coloured light permeates through the translucent acrylic behind each alcove, providing a varying backdrop to highlight the footwear.

The alcoves in the front window perfectly frame each shoe. The dark space inside means there’s no interior lights distracting from the window feature. The glitter high top on a skateboard – simply one example of the clever VM. The central area is clear apart from the cash desk and a few black low height benches and display pods holding accessories. These are also lit from underneath making them appear as though floating. A few rows of discretely placed spots in the ceiling throw any additional light needed.

It’s clear that architects Meijer & van Schooten have taken inspiration from the art world when designing the store. Brands including Miu Miu, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Stella McCartney, Chloe, Prada and many more that are on offer are showcased like artefacts in a gallery. Each is valuable, coveted and given the appropriate space to be drooled over. This is how retailers should be planning stores –  a space that is true to the brand and shows the product in the best light, rather than looking like everyone else does because that’s the prescribed formula.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Batty for Betty

Anyone doubting the popularity of the British monarchy was silenced over the weekend by the sea of blue, white and red that washed over the nation as Queen Betty celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. It’s boon time for Great Britain despite the economic woes plaguing the Continent – there’s been The Wedding, The Party and soon to be The Games.

Harvey Nics transformed their windows into “a quaint British High Street of yesteryear, complete with shops and boutiques seen throughout the Queen’s illustrious reign. Take a stroll down memory lane and take in H. Nichols and Sons Greengrocer, Blooming Lovely Florist, Nic’s Plaice Fishmonger, Harvey Nickers lingerie shop and The Knightsbridge Corner Shop.”

“We wanted our Jubilee windows have a vintage 1950′s feel about them to reflect on the era of the Queen’s coronation while also referencing this season’s ladylike fashion,” says Janet Wardley, Harvey Nichols’ Head of Visual Display. “This window scheme been one of the most fun to conceptualize – it’s a striking contrast to the contemporary approach we normally take with our installations, but retains our distinctly tongue-in-cheek sense of humour!”

Store Windows at Harvey NicholsStore Windows at Harvey NicholsStore Windows at Harvey Nicholsharvey nicks 1  Harvey_Nichols___4_378  

Selfridges celebrated the occasion with its ‘Big British Bang’ campaign which will be extended throughout the summer. Each window depicts a typically British scene but with an imaginative twist – from seagulls flocking over Brighton Beach, to a changing of the guards by punks, even a builder’s tea party.

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The campaign carries through in store with The Big British Shop and the British-style focused Britannica exhibition. The shop features exclusive products from GB brands including Union Jack gumboots by Hunter, Barbour jackets complete with Union Jack lining and life sized corgi statues.

selfridges shop

Oliver Sweeney, purveyor of men’s shoes, went with something more permanent. Teaming up with graffiti artists, for two days they painted the exterior of the store. What makes it so unique is that the Union Jack was made up of small stencils of Oliver Sweeney shoes!


Meanwhile Ted Baker had corgis adorning the pavement and Hackett had the Queen’s Guard on notice.

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The craziness isn’t just confined to the Isles. Check out these windows for expats Ted Baker in Paris and Topshop in Melbourne.

IMG_2559 topshop melbourne

Thanks to WWB Online for the Selfridges images.