Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Note from Tiffany

Very rarely do I receive handwritten mail. Occasionally there’ll be a wedding invitation or around my birthday, cards from my grandmothers so I was quite intrigued to find a handwritten parchment envelope lying waiting for me this week.  

I turned it over and saw the stamp… Tiffany & Co. Immediately my heart raced a little faster, what could it be – an event invitation? A gift? It was neither, but still brought a warm flutter to my heart upon opening and reading.


Someone at Tiffany & Co – the luxury brand with the signature blue boxes that every girl covets had written to me! My local store had taken the time to hand write a personal note asking if I was enjoying the jewellery I had bought and if I had seen the new Frank Gehry range. The letter could have been printed by an automatic mailing system, which would have been more convenient for the store, but it wasn’t. They could have enclosed a catalogue to push another sale, but they didn’t. It was a meaningful gesture from a business that has been in operation for over 170 years that made me feel very special.

P.S. Trish – I am loving my Torque rings thank you very much!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Finders Keepers

Every weekend somewhere across this city, scores of hard-working artisans drag out their trestle tables and display their handmade crafts, anxious to sell to Melburnians looking for their next unique trinket. From Rose St, to Southbank on Sundays, to the institution that is the Camberwell market, car parks and vacant spaces are converted to temples of commerce with vendors patiently whiling away the hours between dribs and drabs of customers.

Last weekend Finders Keepers breathed new life into Melbourne’s artisan market scene and drew swarms of people to the Docklands to shop the goods of our talented creative community. What set Finders Keepers apart from the routine fare is that is was truly an Event.

Not only was there row after row of stalls (over 150) selling everything from jewellery, to clothing, to wooden portable speakers – there was also food and entertainment to keep the people around. Baba Catering and the Taco Truck (yes we finally have one in Melbourne!) filled bellies whilst a rotating line-up of bands and DJs hit the stage. Using a disused warehouse over 2,000 square metres in size also meant that Melbourne’s unreliable weather wouldn’t threaten proceedings. Art installations including an interactive collaboration with the Paper Convention Collective and the Ethical Clothing Australia Vintage Photobooth added to the sense of fun and occasion.

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Whilst I’m not sure the organisers of Finders Keepers would like to be compared to a multi-national like Westfield, they have adopted the core principles that best practice retailers use -  keep customers within the space engaged to maximise potential consumption.

Finders Keepers, I IMG_0653 YOU!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Brooksfield is more than a just a retailer of sharply designed, good quality menswear. It’s also lifestyle portal for the discerning urban male.

The window display caught my attention whilst walking along Chapel Street on Sunday. I was busy snapping away on the iPhone, impressed with the “what’s your story?” concept, incorporating a noticeboard pinned with polaroids, pamphlets and maps covering everything from art, to bike parts, to a revealing shot of a woman sitting cross-legged.  The ever-patient boyfriend wandered inside for a closer inspection and thankfully I followed.

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The window concept has been carried right through the store. Each change-room, well lit with a stool, schoolboy grey curtains and large mirror also featured a pinboard with images tacked on representing the brand’s story. Another board fills a wall at the rear, where a large leather couch and chairs wait for customers to lounge. The backwall is occupied by an old timber plans cabinet littered with beautiful books for sale. The layout and visual merchandising scream “Ivy League Frat House hang out.”

The designers have cleverly integrated a mix of old Swedish furniture pieces with new fittings. Office lamps are cleverly positioned and pointed to highlight the product on shelves and racks. Accessories and books on design and art, amongst other things, have been merchandised into the range. They have taken every detail into consideration. Even thinking to turn around the rear mannequin in the window display so it faces back into the shop – a last ‘look’ for the customer to walk away with as they leave the store.

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Upon discussing the heritage of the brand with one of the guys in store, I realised I’d actually come across the label before. It was in a boring branded wall display in Myer Melbourne department store, pre renovation. And to be quite honest it looked and felt like every other middle of the range shirt and suit offering Myer presented. On Chapel St though, within this space, it really came into its own. 

This highlights the challenge facing young labels that are fortunate enough to picked up by a large retailer, but that don’t have a strong brand heritage. How do they differentiate their offering from competitors within such a small space? The importance of a flagship store in establishing brand identity cannot be underestimated.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

LMFF Industry Forum – Retail Detail

Earlier this week I sat in on one of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s industry forums – Retail Detail. The forum was pitched as providing an opportunity for Australian retailers to share in the insider knowledge of retail and marketing experts from across the globe on what retailers can do to access new markets and sustain a competitive edge.

By far, the most influential panellist (and host) was Mark Ritson – Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Melbourne and more interestingly, consultant to LVMH for over 10 years. I found myself continually nodding in agreement at his brutally honest assessment of the current threat posed to Australia retailers with the arrival of global giants H&M, Zara, GAP, Coach and Victoria’s Secret to name a few. I’d like to share his thoughts with you.

Ritson identified that Australia is in effect an oligopoly – a market condition that exists when there are few sellers (typically less than 7 or 8) and, as a result of which they can greatly influence price and other market factors. Aside from being profitable and well established players, oligopolies also typically fit these characteristics:
  • Ill prepared for aggressive competitor tactics
  • Slow response times to new entrants
  • They have brand awareness but not brand association
  • They lack innovation
  • They lack consumer focus
So what challenges does this leave Australian retailers facing?

1. Need to accept this is real competition
The big four banks and two supermarkets dismissed the arrival of HSBC and Aldi believing it would be hard for new players to make money in Australia, that it’s a different kind of market and that they would struggle. The truth is that Australia is a small but easy market.

2. Inventory and distinctive newness
Coach’s point of difference was to create 12 collections plus one for Christmas. This left other luxury brands who typically produced only three or four per year looking old and stale very quickly.

3. Targeting and differentiation
Targeting is key, not segmentation. Establish who you want to include and just as importantly, exclude. Abercrombie & Fitch intentionally create dark, loud stores with semi-clad males greeting customers at the front to keep older, daggier men away from wearing their brand.

4. Store experience
Break the mould and do something exciting. Otherwise I’m going to shop online from the comfort of my own home.

5. Service
Fix the broken standard of service so it’s at minimum, on par with the US or Europe. Chanel have quietly “enacted an enormously systematic mystery shopping program which drives almost every aspect of the way they deliver service”.

6. Market Research
Coach constantly refer to ‘She’ – the target client that drives everything the team do. They spend $5 million p.a. on market research, conduct 40,000 one-on-one telephone interviews and meet 500 customers per month in focus group research. They also utilise conjoint research (I highly recommend reading more about this – fascinating stuff) to drive and set prices; and engage in prototype testing. They mine their database of 10 million consumers in America for constant customer orientation. “Creativity is driven by their knowledge of the client.”

7. Consumer Orientation
Ritson believes Australian retailers are typically “run by financially driven men that don’t understand the client and truly believe that their revenues come from the revenue figures” (Oh hello! So relevant when you look at the poor percentage of women that sit on company boards in this country. Sussan Group which is 100% owned by Naomi Milgrom employs 98% women and has two of the most successful fashion houses in this country – Sportsgirl and Sussan). Revenue comes from the client and it’s time to understand her, to respect her, to spend some money on researching her and time to build the business around her. Zara’s operations diagram depicts the customer at the centre – everything they do is driven by her.

In summing up Ritson posed the question – when will Australia represent itself internationally? We have no global brands yet ‘Australia’ is the number one country brand in the world (even more so in 2011 thanks to a $5m investment in Oprah). He proposes that “We spread our brands to the international market… Maybe the best form of defence is attack.”

Australian retailers – take heed!

Friday, March 11, 2011

You don’t wear shoes in the bathroom

No you generally don’t, but that isn’t stopping Camper from selling them out of a space that very much resembles a bathroom.

The fifth in the Camper fleet for London, the new
Camper Together store on the corner of Shelton and Neal Streets has been conceived by young Spanish designer Tomás Alonso. Whilst the illusionary three dimensional effect created using standard 10 x 10 wall tiles is the first feature to catch my eye, it’s perhaps the fittings that are most fascinating.

“Perhaps the most striking element is the large table with its accompanying chairs and benches, which take up most of the space,” Alonso says. Few designers have been noted for their ability to bend steel tube, yet Alonso clearly has this skill mastered.

“All of the furniture was designed and built specifically for the shop as part of a personal project I’ve been working on for some time now, which is based on the formal and structural language that two materials as dissimilar as lacquer tubing and natural wood – in this case, white oak – can create together.

This is Tomás Alonso’s first interior design project and I look forward to seeing more of his work, though being a champion of “
slow design”, we may be waiting some time.

Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso  Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso

Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso  Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso
Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso  Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso
Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso  Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso
Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso  Camper store in London by Tomas Alonso

Camper Together is a clever initiative by the brand to collaborate with designers and offer consumers in selected cities a unique experience – think ‘
Citysumers’ and ‘Push for Posh’.
Thanks Dezeen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What is the future of retail?

Today Inside Retailing published an article entitled ‘Shopping in the tech age’, revealing the ability to buy products directly through the store window with a swish of your hand.

It described a technology that’s been exhibited at
CeBIT, the world’s biggest high-tech expo which uses infrared cameras to register hand movements, such as pointing to a pair of shoes, and instantly transmits them to a large screen in the shop window. A menu is prompted to appear on the glass, showing the item in 3D along with product information such as sizes, colours and price. To buy, the browser simply has to point to the checkout icon and pays by putting their smart-phone against the window.

It got me thinking - what do applications like this mean for store layouts and shopping centre designs as we know them now? Will we do away with shops we walk into altogether and instead walk through corridors of glass separating us from a myriad of consumables? Does this spell the end of sales assistants in stores? How will the items we’ve purchased be bagged and handed to us?

Trends indicate that we still crave the tangible nature of the shopping experience – to touch, smell, try on and be taught about those items, for which we part with our hard earned coin. After all the explosion in social media hasn’t stopped us from enjoying the physical company of our friends and family. I believe there’s still a place for human interaction in our purchases and that the brand experience will need to be even more fulfilling for us to participate in this future scenario.

But I still can’t shake the futuristic vision of  walking through malls that are giant screens flashing for my attention. Probably what my fingers experience now when they navigate the online stores contained in my iPhone! Food for thought.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Broadsheet Cafe pops up

A Sunday afternoon stroll through the top end of Melbourne city found me at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival pop up, the Broadsheet Cafe. One of the city’s online mags (sometimes in print), Broadsheet has joined forces with some of our favourite cafes to showcase their unique roasts and tastes. 

We all have our favourite blend – one of my friends swears by
St. Ali in South Melbourne and another rather dogmatically asserts that Piccolo in Windsor is home of the best brew. I’m proposing the Broadsheet Cafe be the venue for their showdown. With a daily rotating roster of baristas from Seven Seeds, Five Senses, Dead Man Espresso, Market Lane, The Premises and Proud Mary there’s plenty of coffee available for their critiquing. They’ve also partnered with fine food purveyors, Baker D. Chirico and Earl Canteen to supply the nosh.

I love that a number of competitive businesses can work together on this venture in the pursuit of expanding and educating their customer base. Kudos really goes to Broadsheet though for facilitating this project to, in their words “engage with our readers as well as the people and businesses we admire.”

They go on to write in their latest print edition “More than just a news source, Broadsheet is dedicated to helping people experience and participate in the things that we report on everyday. This is what has driven us to develop a physical experience for our readers and an extension of the brand beyond words and theories.”

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The Broadsheet Cafe runs from 4th – 14th March at 24 Crossley Street.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dolling up Advertising

"Some strange ladies showed up in an awkward adspace-thing near our office. So we decided to dress them up." - J&J, San Francisco.

Community contribution (without consultation) delivers a far more captivating outcome!

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Thanks Wooster.