Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lisa Ho Swings Into Spring

Easily the loveliest window display of the season in Lisa Ho’s GPO Store, Melbourne!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Entering the Fourth Dimension… At the Core of Retailing Innovation

Tesco changed grocery shopping the way we know it, when earlier this year they engaged in the cleverest marketing campaign of 2011. That was lining a train station in South Korea with images resembling supermarket shelves and labelling each product with QR codes so you could shop from the station and have it delivered immediately to your home (read more here).

The innovation didn’t cease there. In line with a few other early adopters, they’ve now dived into the surreal world of augmented reality. 

In September as part of their ‘Big Price Drop’ media campaign, Tesco brought the fourth dimension to print ads, bus shelters and over 8,000 billboards around the UK. They partnered with Blippar, an augmented reality platform that is downloadable as an app on smart phones. It works using the in-built camera to recognise things in the physical environment and instantaneously provides a digital connection, simply by holding your phone up to hover over anything ‘blippable’ – no scanning (like QR codes) or photo-taking required. The response could be a web link, video, coupon, 3D experience or game. In the case of Tesco it links through to their website where you can download daily recipes or find your closest store.

Tesco is the first major retailer to deliver an AR print campaign using the UK-based tool. Angela Porter, senior advertising manager at Tesco, said “The Big Price Drop initiative is a major new offering from Tesco this autumn so it is fitting to partner with an equally innovative new technology for the launch campaign. We have been working hard with Initiative to devise an execution that takes interaction to the next level and by providing customers with the means to download store information instantly I am confident we have achieved that.”

Come October, they busted out the technology again to use as part of a Halloween promotion. Ads placed in the Sun and Metro newspapers brought animation and sound to the promotions around Shrek DVDs, Halloween costumes and treats. They also opened an online Facebook Pop Up store for the event, but that’s another story (read more here).

The fun doesn’t end there. Tesco have also introduced augmented reality into the online shopping experience. It allows you to check out what your TV or completed Lego toy looks like before you purchase… check out the video here.


This company is forward thinking at it’s core. In their 2011 Annual Report  (entitled ‘A Modern & Innovative Company’) they write of their approach to online retailing:

“Customers expect to be able to shop where and when they want – as shopping habits have changed over the years we've changed too. As we've grown from a UK supermarket chain towards becoming an international multi-channel retailer we've continued to innovate every step of the way.

We were viewed as pioneers when we first launched an online grocery business 11 years ago. It's now the largest, most profitable business of its kind in the world.

Using their smartphones, our customers can now scan the barcode of grocery items, order online and have their shopping delivered to their home.”

Tesco unashamedly admits their aiming to knock Carrefour off it’s No. 2 perch as the world’s biggest supermarket chain (Walmart holds the No. 1 title). Despite the economic doom and gloom that has plagued Europe in the past year, they’ve still managed to grow their store network from 4,836 to 5,380 and increase sales by 8.1% to £67.6bn. With attitude and results like that I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Date With Fashion

Whilst it may seem like old news now, the success of the Vogue Fashion’s Night Out in September is still a noteworthy event in my eyes, especially as we head into a Christmas period that by all reports looks to be bleak for retailers. 

The brain child of Anna Wintour, it was first launched three years ago to jump start the fashion industry post GFC. Across Australia, Asia, Europe and the US, stores stay open late, offering retailment to tempt shoppers out to enjoy a favourite pastime.

Sydney-siders were lucky enough to have the opportunity to head to the Pearls, Pimms and Polo party at Paspaley where there were guest appearances from polo players and actresses. Bally hosted a Swiss soiree with chocolate desserts, punch, cognac and DJs on decks. Mixology was the order for Westfield Pitt Street with Schweppes and Gordons on the cocktails, whilst Hermes provided shoppers with tuition in turning their gorgeous silk scarves into turbans.


In London’s Liberty Scarf Hall, guests were styled in swathes of silk and posed in front of the Vogue cover. These were then posted on Facebook so they could tag their photo and share with friends. They enjoyed cocktails from the Mahiki Coconut rum shack, danced with Lulu Kennedy & Co and indulged in free Hourglass mascara makeovers.

We’re starting to see more retailers participate in cultural events that allow them to express their brand identity and bring customers in store in innovative ways rather than by slapping red & white sales posters up over their windows. L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Look.Stop.Shop program is one example. Another is London’s Fashion Weekend hosted by the British Fashion Council and sponsored this year by Vodafone. It averages 16,000-20,000 visitors – predominately girls having a day out or mums and daughters. With a spend of almost £1 million or £60 per person any fashion retailer would be right mad to not get involved.

In 2009 I was handed a flyer on a street in Manhattan for the Lucky Magazine Boutique Crawl down the city’s famous Bleecker St. My GF and I sipped complimentary champagne in store and chomped down on cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery, made famous by Carrie Bradshaw. We queued up for insane discounts in Marc Jacobs (I still get mad props for a clutch I picked up that night for a steal) and climbed up to peruse the wares in the Cynthia Rowley van.

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There’s so much talk of High Street strips suffering at the expense of online and big shopping malls. I can vouch that there’s nothing nicer than being outdoors on a balmy evening, ambling up main street with gelato in one hand, shopping bags in the other, popping in and out of your favourite boutiques, girlfriends in tow, feeling special about being part of an exclusive, out of the ordinary event. 

If any retailers are tempted, drop me a line!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Island Home

No I’m not posting about a Christine Anu song, rather about Louis Vuitton’s Island Maison which opened in Marina Bay, Singapore a few days ago.

Labelled as “a new luxury destination, where modern architecture meets the spirit of travel”, the concept is groundbreaking. LMVH have cleverly selected one of the world’s largest shopping destinations to create their 12th Maison store and the first on water.  The store is one of two glass and steel crystal pavilions designed by Moshe Safdie as part of the Marina Bay Resort.


Peter Marino, the glamour retail architect who’s responsible for many of the most impressive luxury flagships popping up across Asia, designed the interior. Marino says of Singapore,  “It’s a vacation spot for millions of Chinese. It’s an occasion spot where you go for a week, you go to the casino, the amusement park, hopefully you go to the shopping center. But [Vuitton] didn’t want to just be in the shopping centre like every other brand,” he explained. “The LV island is a real experiment in retail. It’s an object sitting in the water. You take a little wooden path 100 feet to the store, or there is a tunnel with a moving walkway; a little history of the company flashes by you, which is great fun, and then you come up,” said Marino, explaining the choreography of the consumer experience. “Because Vuitton, with their luxury luggage collection, owns the world of travel, it’s very much reminiscent of a luxury liner.”

The star-studded launch was was transmitted live via Facebook, providing a unique tour of LV’s island home to more than 3 million fans. Well worth checking it out on Facebook. Hat’s off for the complete retail experience… amazing nautical design inspired by the surroundings, boldness of creating a brand destination on water and importantly marketed smartly using social media inviting consumers to share the launch rather than having to wait to read about it in the social pages. Oh yeah, and the access via the underwater tunnel gallery... it’s just as much about the journey as the destination!

Photos courtesy of Wallpaper.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Retailers – Why Householders Are Wielding A Smaller Basket

The proof’s out –whilst there’s been an increase in our spending since 2003-04, we are devoting less of our disposable income to food, clothing, household appliances and household services. But whilst we have been saving more, we are also allocating a greater proportion of our funds to recreation goods, travelling and eating out.

According to the ABS Household Expenditure Survey released yesterday, spending on meals in restaurants, hotels and clubs has increased by 68% and recreation goods by 41%. All this indicates that we’ve shifted our spending pattern to enjoying experiences rather than accumulating material possessions with our hard earned pennies. You might argue this is because we’ve developed a social conscious and are more aware of consumption. Or that in this post 9/11, GFC world we’ve chosen to focus on living in the moment, enjoying our surroundings and sharing time with those close to create lifelong memories. Whatever the motivation, it’s an irrefutable change of behaviour.

So perhaps the complaints of suffering from the retail industry that are saturating our media of late could be justified? Coupled with the appreciation of the Aussie dollar and boom in ecommerce sites, it’s no wonder the Productivity Commission were called in to cast a shining light!  SBS’ Insight program focused on exactly this challenge last week in ‘The Big Sell’. According to David Rumbens of Deloitte Access Economics,

“We're seeing more money go towards services, towards things - over the last few years, like cafes and restaurants - towards home maintenance spending, towards travel and accommodation. A lot of those things, which are not in your traditional retail bundle, are getting a higher share of the consumer dollar. And of course more into savings accounts. So it's meant that, over the last year or two, retailers, to a large extent, have been stuck in essentially the slow lane, and then on top of that, you have the online presence eking out a higher share as well.”

But there is hope. Trendwatching’s report this month entitled ‘Retail Renaissance’ details how and why we all crave the social nature of the shopping experience… face to face, in a physical retail environment. They define the trend as:

RETAIL RENAISSANCE | Smart retailers are defying doom and gloom scenarios, as they realize that shopping in the real world will forever satisfy consumers’ deep rooted needs for human contact, for instant gratification, for the promise of (shared) experiences, for telling stories. Hence the flurry of new formats, technologies, capabilities, and products that now are delighting retail customers around the world.

So what are you doing to offer consumers a better experience? Are you providing free wifi (Tesco) or streaming fashion shows live in store (Burberry)? Perhaps rewarding people for check-ins (Macy’s) or signed up with Quickerfeet to offer nearby smartphone users a better deal? Or even offering in store workshops to educate how to better use your products (Miele, Sony)?

Call me naive but I think there’s much smarter ways to drive us back in store than cry poor. Australian consumers are demanding more of retailers. If you want to know where to start, head to the SBS Insight Twitter or Facebook pages and read the feedback of your customers!

Source: One of the world's leading trend firms, sends out its free, monthly Trend Briefings to more than 160,000 subscribers worldwide.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Urban by Target Opens

Last Saturday saw the opening of the second DDS store to set up shop on Chapel Street – Urban by Target. Planning a range to fill just 1,000sqm in the Jam Factory is no easy task for a major retailer. They’ve done well to narrow down the Target customer shopping in the hood – the focus is on an extensive apparel, footwear and accessories range for women and kids and a tried and true ‘socks and jocks’ selection for men.
There was a reasonable crowd milling on the street out the front, thanks in large part to an opening promotion hosted by Nova FM. Receiving a $10 gift voucher to spend in store had many a ‘I wouldn’t be caught dead shopping in Target’ consumers racing in… $10 goes a long way in a store like that (3 pack of socks and you still walk away with change!). In a stroke of genius they are using plain brown paper bags instead of the usual branded plastic. Let’s face it, none of us want to be seen carrying our Target bag into Sass & Bide, Scanlan & Theodore or Arthur Galan, all within a stones throw.

When you walk in the door, the name becomes a whole lot more appropriate.  The exposed red brickwork and beams of the heritage building make for an interesting backdrop to the low height grey laminate fixtures that are smartly packed with product. There’s plenty of mirrors on fixture ends meaning less fitting rooms required therefore maximising space on the selling floor. The signage graphics are large and fun. The language simple – ‘Try On’, ‘’Buy’ and ‘Pay Here’. Acrylic cut outs & signage are dotted around to demark categories, i.e. a girl running next to “Hop, skip, jump, run, walk, throw, cycle, sprint, ride… then stretch for 20 minutes.”

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The piece-de-resistance for me was the touchscreen for assistance. It featured the usual items like a store plan and directory but also a screen were you could provide feedback. The gem is the staff profile. There’s a photo of each member along with answers to a bunch of conversation starter questions, like their favourite food or movie and what they love about the brand. For Dave his Target is “to make an infectious experience.” I suspect Dave is a marketing student!

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It will be interesting to see if Urban is expanded into other major shopping boulevards.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Innovators Lead. Imitators Follow.

In a market place filled with millions of products competing for limited consumer dollars, how does a brand differentiate itself from the pack?

Product innovation doesn’t mean you need to come up with something new, just simply improve on an existing product or customise it to fit demand. That’s exactly what Levi’s have done with the Commuter jean. The tidal wave of moustache clad, skinny jean wearing, boutique coffee toting hipsters peddling around our cities on their beloved fixies hasn’t gone unnoticed by the father of denim.

The recently released jean is part of a series of new products “designed and optimised specifically for the needs of the urban commuter cyclist.” Based around the 511 Skinny Jean it’s made from performance stretch fabric for more give during riding and reinforced to improve durability and reduce the chance of any embarrassing rips when swinging a leg over (the bike that is!). It’s been ‘Scotch Sanitised’ (what a great ragtrade trademark) to provide protection against  nasty body odours.

The best feature in my opinion is the reflective tape on the interior cuffs of the jeans which when rolled up offer high visibility in the dark. The utility waist band has been especially designed to hang a u-lock. Levi's® SVP of Men's Merchandising & Design, Erik Joule, sums up the rationale for the new line - "this product was born from innovation and classic American style - it's about designing product for people who ride bikes, by people who ride bikes. We knew that our jeans were already being worn by urban cyclists across the country. We listened to what they wanted and created a product with performance traits for biking that also functions as daily street wear."

In a nutshell, here is a brand that knows it’s customers well enough to be one step ahead and be telling them what they need. A well conceived advertising campaign also helps.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Make Everything Look Better Instantly… Eye Gallery Know How

Stencilled posters with a clear call to action and cardboard cuts out heads wearing the product… the Eye Gallery in South Yarra make merchandising a small and partially transparent product look like an easy task.

Just after I took these shots I paused to watch a couple walk by, double back and share a laugh at the scene.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Look. Stop. Shop. 2011

Before I go banging on about London (sorry I will get to it, have been busy moving house) I do need to acknowledge one fabulous display I saw as part of this year’s State of Design Look. Stop. Shop program.

Being away for the week (and moving!) meant that I only had a short window to dash around the eastern quarter of the city to visit those retailers participating. The standout of what I did see was Obus. As an add on to the display they offered a workshop, Art for Your Feet, giving participants the opportunity to customise a pair of Melissa & Gaetano Pesce boots – a style specifically created by Melissa for customisation. The shoes were then displayed in light boxes. At the front of the store an eclectic mix of styles of the Brazilian shoes were attached to a row of coloured wheels, creating a windmill effect with enough pop to rival a Hubba Bubba factory. Plus it created a lovely fragrance inside the store (for those unfamiliar, Melissa shoes have a fantastically sticky bubblegum odour).

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I also have to give Zomp on Flinders Lane mad props for the display in their store entry. Shoe boxes stacked high and sprayed black provided a stark backdrop to the white shoes and splashes of fluorescent orange. I hope they use this space for creative displays more often in future.

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