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.

Mercurylab/Go Forth! | Mercurylab in the Veneto, Italy (Part Four): The Allure of Presentation

September 05 2014

We all know know that there is an art and craft to effective merchandising display. I was really struck by the divergent displays I found on a quick hit and run trip to Italy. The Veneto is a hotbed of medieval towns and cities, Palladian architecture, and extraordinary masterpieces by Giotto and Tintoretto. It’s also an incredible place to experience truly divergent approaches to merchandising presentation, ranging from controlled vintage to sleek contemporary Italian design.

Cases in point:


An up-to-the-minute gourmet shop built on top of a wine cave built on top of exposed medieval and Roman streets in Vincenza. The prepared food was incredibly light and offered an alternative to a conventional pasta lunch, the product selection a sophisticated mix of carefully chosen artisan made foods, and the display a contemporary approach in its repetition, form and colors.


An osteria in Verona. Osterias serve simple, well-prepared food, and can be known for their wine list. This particular osteria utilizes the complete vocabulary of what was considered by Americans in the 1950s to be the ultimate in traditional italian restaurant design, including checked tablecloths and wine bottles covered with candle wax. The atmosphere is personal and welcoming, reflecting the sense of being invited into the owner’s home. And you could easily buy a bottle of wine to take with you, reinforcing the idea of taking Italy home with you, no matter where you live.


A historic candy shop in Verona, displaying traditional glass jars and product design associated with the past.


A local fashion designer in Verona, one with a quirky Italian aesthetic perfect for a girl from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her collection encompasses natural fibers and simple shapes for the bookish girl — slightly boyish, referencing school uniforms, but with sleek and natural details.

All are strong local brands with clear and successful brand messages.

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