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?

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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Models Who Do More: The Hyphenates Photo Shoot, including Lunchbox Fund founder Topaz Page-Green

September 27 2013

Awhile ago, I was thinking about models, those beautiful people blessed with extraordinary genes, some of whom are committed to projects and work that is much bigger and profound than you would think. My trend nose must have been twitching, as this was a bit before a few of the major fashion magazines published stories in this vein.

Anyway, I contacted my wondrous friend, photographer Matthew Jordan Smith, who is a committed humanitarian himself, to see if he would like to work on a fashion shoot that I called The Hyphenates, about models who had other active lives beyond the camera, both creative andphilanthropic.

One of the special people we photographed was Topaz Page-Green, a stunning model from South Africa who started The Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing daily meals for at-risk school children in township and rural areas of South Africa, a country where 65% of all children live in poverty. This month, she was featured in American Vogue's all-important September issue. The article talked about the interesting philanthropic model she has created, and the event she is organizing for foodies in NY, where you can photograph your meal at participating restaurants, tag the restaurant, and voila! the restaurant gives a donation to the fund. It’s a clever use of the photos we all take on a daily basis, and all for a good cause.

In honor of Topaz (in Pucci) and Jihae (in Rick Owens), who was long the face of Eileen Fisher, and who is a rocking chanteuse, and Gulia, an ER nurse who continues to work in front of the camera (cleverly outfitted in Harajuku Girls Red Cross T-shirt)), I'd like to share this wonderful fashion portfolio of The Hyphenates--models who do more.

Enjoy, and do more! As I tell all my clients, go forth with your dreams and put them into action. That’s how you satisfy yourself, and also build your brand.

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