The Changing Retail Landscape

January 22 2015


These days, it’s tough to be a small retailer. As I’ve been out and about in neighborhoods that range from Park Slope, Brooklyn to Soho, NYC, I’m noticing so many empty storefronts where local retailers used to be. At the same time, many off-price, national retailers are successfully setting up shop. Nordstrom Rack, T.J. Maxx and Neiman Marcus Last Call have all opened on the Brooklyn Mall, and they are packed with customers. People are shopping away online, despite the risks of their information being hacked as it was at Target. So consumers are consuming, but infrequently with the independent shops.


It’s a trend, for sure. Small retailers with a strong brand and distinctive wares can still make it, but the economies of scale for larger retailers are hard to beat. There still exists a strong interest in the handmade, artisanal and unique – hence the success of Etsy, and Blake Lively’s new website venture Preserve, which showcases a curated group of USA-based artisans whose offerings span a variety of disciplines. Local food shops prosper as the trend towards food provenance and the public’s interest in protecting the environment continues to expand.


I’m sad to see a kind of depressed quality on what used to be shopping streets like 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. What’s the solution? It lies with price, originality, and vision, as well as paying attention to the holes in the marketplace so that you can provide products that consumers cannot find elsewhere on the local level. And as always with retail, it’s about being personal and forming relationships, one of the cornerstones of brand strategy and brand building.

Go Forth! Mercurylab in London (Part Two) | They (and we) Love to Eat

July 29 2014

Farmer's Market Marketing

Whether based in Brooklyn or London, good farmer’s markets not only bring a sense of the native culture and some delicious foods, but also offer great marketing opportunities for the vendors.


Broadway Market, Hackney (Left, Popino, based in Hampstead, and their homemade savory tarts and pies; right, artisan cheeses from all over the UK)

The markets provide a great atmosphere and the chance to sell not only your product, but your brand. These small business owners and artisans foodmakers often build their brands at markets, gaining a following that allows them to begin to wholesale or maybe even open their own shop. These days, in the artisan sector, a successful food brand will always bring together a combination of market sales, wholesale and retail. The sellers at the market level are in a unique position to get feedback about their products straight from the horse's mouth (so to speak). Sellers can interact with customers, create a relationship, and put a face to the food. It's all very organic (mind the pun). The UK has been forward- thinking in providing provenance for local foods, and the local food movement has taken hold and flourished here for many years, far in advance of the US.

There is an incredible interest in locally sourced food. Cooks and consumers want the Real Deal. Organic. Healthy. Ethical. Local. Lucky for market stalls, eating and ethics all get rolled up into one concern that points to more sales and exposure.


Heavenly Andina, where we set at the kitchen counter and coveted everything coming out of the kitchen

Adina, an amazing Peruvian spot we went to a few nights ago in Shoreditch, is one of many restaurants to feature fresh, local, GMO-free ingredients. They call out their sourcing right on the menu. Even the beverages are based on “Peruvian Super Fruits,” and the fries are not potatoes, but are actually healthy root vegetables typical of traditional Peruvian cuisine. Anyway, it was all delicious, and everyone in the busy kitchen wanted to share their enthusiasm for the food. YUM!

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Tyrells: Chips (or Crisps), Depending Upon Where You Live

March 14 2014

The other day I went to the grocery store in search of a delicious salty snack. A photo of a group of little old ladies caught my eye, and I knew I had found what I was looking for: Tyrrells English Chips (or Crisps for you Brits). The chips were absolutely delicious. In this case, the packaging was witty and effective in differentiating the product, and definitely pulled me in.


via

The company was running a promotion that was featured on the bag that I decided to enter (more on that later), and after a quick google search, I found that they had two different websites, one for their US customers (tyrrellschips.com), and one for their UK consumers (tyrrellscrisps.co.uk). While the sites have the same look and feel, I could see a slight difference in the language, which makes sense given that the UK and the US are two countries separated by a common and similar language! The UK product offerings are far more extensive, offering a wider variety of flavors like Sunday Best Roast Chicken and Naked. The brand’s witty, playful voice comes across in the flavor naming and design, which is very effective (note that I bought the first time I encountered the chip = 100% success for the brand). Having a more extensive product line in the UK makes sense considering that Tyrells is well-known in Britain, and the UK is their main market.


left & right

The US and UK sites do share a few promotions, such as a Facebook potato sack race game and caption contest, but the “big-ticket” promos differ vastly. In the US, you can enter to win a Cambridge Satchel. This style of bag has been very popular this past year in the fashion industry in the US (and still is). It is a slice of traditional English design that is still very much in vogue with the younger crowd. The bag design is a play between modern and vintage, and it works well with the Tyrrells brand voice and aesthetic.

The UK promo is quite different, and very quirky. You can win prizes like “A Monkey’s Uncle”, “A Pack of Lies” or “Inappropriate Trousers”—the actual prize being £25,000, but of course, if you’d prefer an awkward head massage, they’d be happy to oblige. The UK promo really emphasizes Tyrell’s humorous voice to a degree that a caption contest cannot capture, and as an established brand in the UK they can run an almost snarky promotion. This type of oddball promo might not fly yet America because their audience here does not know them well enough. I’m going to track them to see how they promote in the US in the future.

The takeaway? When marketing and communicating your brand in different markets, like Tyrrells, it’s likely that you will want to shade your marketing and communications to target and engage your specific audiences based on the culture and country. Your approach to marketing your brand is unlikely to be monolithic, whether you are selling a service, product, or company.

It’s Nutty: Almond Milk’s Increasing Market Expansion

January 09 2014

Buying milk is not as easy as it used to be! Gone are the days when we would buy an important part of the daily staple very inexpensively as retailers used it to tempt buyers into their shops. Now we are assailed by choices of many different types of milk from coconut to soy. Is there anything in it?

A recent addition to the plethora of milk replacers or substitutes is almond milk. Unflavored almond milk has no animal fats, no soy, no lactose and is low in calories but many prefer the flavored versions which have sugars, gums and other additives. Silk almond milk has set itself against dairy milks as evident from the Silk almond milk carton, which affirmatively declares that "Dairy Milk is getting jealous!" This is an interesting marketing move, as by doing so, they are also taking market share from their own line of soy milks.


via

So does almond milk sell well? Undoubtedly. In 2011 almond milk sales increased 79% and in 2013 sales surpassed those of soy milk! And how about pricing? In equivalent sizes, almond milk retails for 25% or more than dairy milk, so customers must be drawn by something other than price. Almond milk is touted as being better for your health, as there are concerns about the estrogen in soy, it appeals to consumers with lactose intolerance, and there is also a move within the natural and alternative community away from cow's milk. Consumers also want to know what they are drinking or giving their children contains no growth hormones or GMOs, which is a claim that Almond Milk fulfills and puts front and center.

All this begs the question of whether dairy milk will retaliate and, if so, how. The move towards alternative milks has been going on for years, and will only continue to pick up speed. It's part of the larger consumer trend towards having more control and knowledge about what they are eating, as well as the abiding Boomer interest in longevity. It has certainly been documented in countless surveys that Boomers seem to see death as an option, not an inevitability, and that they believe that good eating and heart health will help them live forever. Almond milk fits the anti-aging profile -- hence it's popularity with a large sector of the population.

Will the dairy industry be able to assure consumers that they are still the best choice for their health? Have they become too accustomed to US Government subsidies so that they have lost their competitive spirit? Only time will tell.

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