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.

What's Old in New Again: Cool Old Folks

January 14 2015

Here’s a trend I’ve been noticing for some time now, certainly in the UK marketplace. There is a new focus on projects that are inspired by stylish and accomplished older folks. I first noticed it when Tim Walker published “The Granny Alphabet” in 2013. Beginning with the letter A, the text by Kit Hesketh-Harvey establishes the book’s intentions: “A is for alphabet, (ABC), and aged ancestors (Awfully like me.) Twenty-six letters, that’s twenty-six Grannies.” Walker describes the book as both a photographic love letter to the elderly as well as part documentation of a dying breed of little old ladies, with all proceeds going to the charity The Friends of the Elderly. It’s incredibly adorable.


From Tim Walker's The Granny Alphabet

Interestingly enough, I do notice when I’m in the UK that older people are not scorned, shut away, or buffed down with Botox the way can be here in our youth-obsessed culture in the US. Right now, Todd Selby has shot The Bright Old Things for Selfridge’s, the upscale and enduring retailer based on Oxford Street in London. The campaign is dedicated to gifted artists, artisans and designers who have embraced new professions and disciplines in their senior years. They range from a topiarist (who even knew that existed?) to a punk hero to a Vlogger to a painter. Selfridge’s has also installed an in-store and online boutique where you can buy these talented oldsters’ work .


Selfridges

I can remember my cousin’s incredibly cool grandma Gert. She was a total original, very effervescent and funny, who frequently entertained in diamonds and a peignoir, while lavishly serving champagne and chocolates. She had a dedicated suitor and was a gifted storyteller and magical, creative presence in everyone’s life. One day, I’m hoping to be a Bright Old Thing myself, and love that I have creative inspiration to build on in my own family. Who's your Bright Old Thing?

Market Trending: Kmart Raps Its Way to the Top

August 23 2013

Retailers go through cycles in which they gain and then lose market share. Of course, the reasons for these cycles are complex, ranging from everything to being out of touch with consumer tastes and trends, downturns in the economic cycles to making mistakes in repositioning their offerings and brand voice. Currently suffering mightily in public perception and market confidence is the Kmart franchise. In 2012 they shut down eighty-four stores, but they have been dealing with declining sales for the past six years.

Market trends have shown the business’ decline is mainly due toe loss of popularity among younger consumers. Feeling desperate to staunch their losses and bad PR, and In order to appeal to a hipper teen audience, Kmart is now trying to refine their brand image by teaming up with viral sensation Da Rich Kids, a group of young rappers all younger than age thirteen. Kmart asked the group to create a rap song about the discount store and thus “My Limo” was born.

    

                                                       Image via www.fastcocreate.com

My Limo has already received millions of views and is featured in the retailer’s latest television commercial. This new partnership may push Kmart back up the ranks and sway younger generations to shop at KMart, but the affiliation seems a bit out of left field. In addition, there have been a few reports of older customers being unhappy that the rap commercial portrays only African-American children promoting a brand that is known for low prices. However, the ads are too new to calculate exactly how big or small the effect has been so far with any of their target audiences.

Keep in mind that brands must be credible in order to cement consumer loyalty and maintain longevity in the marketplace. Kmart would need a family of products with legs that are in alignment with the spirit of My Life and that would continue to attract the same type of audience. A flash in the pan doesn’t work long term at retail, as it’s critical to maintain your brand voice in everything you do. Hence the consistent success of brands such as Burberry, Diesel, and Vans, who really know what they are doing in this regard.

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