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.