468 Retail and Channel Management Blog

Monday, February 27, 2017

Montauk Sofa doesn’t just produce furniture; they create a vision of luxury 
As I walked into the Calgary showroom on Tenth Avenue South, I was awestruck by the vast warehouse punctuated with masculine slabs of wood, leather, and concrete. Its energy consumed me like I had discovered a museum and its heirlooms, and the minimal, ambient music seduced me further into the gallery. I was puzzled to see products lacking the pricing information and descriptions I had come to expect from similar boutiques. One armoire emitted a dank, musty scent, and it became obvious this was not a new piece of furniture; it was two hundred years old. 

The showroom attendant explained that Montauk creates custom furniture using old  
Monochromatic photographs of individuals, 
aspirationally weathered by their lives,
 find solace, joy, and relaxation.
world techniques, but also offers select antique pieces to complement their manufactured collection. She suggested I experience the products as I would in my home — to sink in and envision how the sofa might impact my space. 

This envisioning of a more ostentatious life is consistent across Montauk’s communication and is evident in the visual elements of their website.

Montauk has gallery-style showrooms in six North American cities, including Toronto’s design district on King Street and in New York’s culture-rich Soho neighborhood, but their products are manufactured in Montreal’s St. Henri quarter, historically known for its leather tanneries. Target demographic segments, such as middle-aged consumers who have settled into their permanent homes, are encouraged to choose fabrics and adjust dimensions as desired to create the ideal furniture for their room. The images on Montauk’s website also hint at target psychographic groups, specifically those who value bold aesthetic, individuality, and brand integrity

Minimal and masculine. The Harris sofa is accompanied by
Granite tables and Yumi lamp.

Montauk Sofa mentions their focus on sustainability in the ECO section of their website. This creates additional consumer value by defining the brand’s image and speaking directly to a segment concerned with the environmental impact of consumption. With prices starting at $5000 for a chair, sophisticated consumers will not be dissuaded by the absence of the signage which traditionally clutters the retail space. Rather, intrigue and artistic input are encouraged by the minimalist presentation.

My fascination with beautiful contemporary home furnishings also lead me to one of America’s modern design exports (or perhaps, imports): Restoration Hardware. On the surface, these two furniture giants occupy much of the same space, as both offer customizable luxury décor for the sophisticated consumer. Where the two differ is in the quality and authenticity of the products presented. Many of Restoration Hardware’s products are available for import on websites such as Alibaba at a fraction of the retail price. 

Restoration Hardware (left) inflates the 
price of East Asian produced goods
which are available on Alibaba (right).
This disregard for authenticity might be further explained in the distinct lack of images on their website portraying people interacting with the product. In contrast, Montauk Sofa creates emotional  attachment, drives narrative, and draws the consumer in through contextual elements which many competitors fail to capitalize on. 

The experience of Montauk Sofa is available at http://www.montauksofa.com/ or in showroom galleries across select cities.

Additional Resources:
Restoration Hardware - https://www.restorationhardware.com/catalog/product/product.jsp?productId=prod1690022&categoryId=cat5700022

Monday, February 20, 2017

INDOCHINO: Tailored for Success

About Indochino

Founded in 2007 by Heikal Gani and Kyle Vucko in Vancouver, British Columbia, Indochino is transforming men’s fashion through their domination of the made-to-measure menswear market; try saying that ten times fast. Indochino has revolutionized the method by which men shop for the perfectly tailored suit. The process begins with the customer inputting a variety of body measurements into the Indochino website, then selecting from one of Indochino’s 150+ suit and/or shirt fabrics and customizing certain features to their desired taste. Indochino offers instructional videos to ensure the consumer is properly measuring themsevles, which will help safeguard the fit of suit. The streamlining of efficiency and affordability Indochino brings to men’s fashion is the ultimate factor in their prodigious success.


Following the inception of Indochino, the made-to-measure menswear company had operated solely as an online platform for men to purchase their custom-tailored suits. However, in 2014, Indochino branched out to become an omnichannel retailer, opening its first permanent brick-and-mortar showroom in Vancouver, British Columbia. Indochino has since opened four more showrooms in the United States and Canada, with further expansions in line for the spring of this year in both countries. The new showroom developments are set to open in Edmonton, Calgary, Greater Vancouver, as well as in five major cities in the United States. The addition of the showroom enhances the consumer’s purchase, giving the customer a luxury tailoring experience at an affordable price. Although the customer may measure themselves and select a suit from the comfort of their own home, being paired with a Style Guide to help with fabric selection, measurements, and customization enriches the entire purchase, giving it a tremendously personal feel. In other words, these showrooms sell the experience, not just the product alone. Consumers across all age groups are more willing to spend on experiences rather than things, and are more interested in retailers who offer personal and custom experiences. Indochino sticks to a minimalistic design in their showrooms, while maintaining a comfortable and luxurious atmosphere.


Opening these eight new showroom locations is a major step in the growth of Indochino. However, with these showrooms accounting for such a large percentage of the expanding retailer’s business, finding the proper locations is a vital decision to the company, which is generally a particularly resource intensive process. However, Indochino utilizes Qubit Visitor Cloud, a cross between a marketing cloud and web personalization tool, to assist them in the decision-making process by providing them with consumer data and analytics. Indochino uses Qubit to identify cities with the highest volume of site traffic or fluctuations in site visitation, which they then employ to initiate pop-up travelling tailor events as a method of testing the market. The successful cities who garner the most promising traffic and transaction data with prosperous pop-ups, may acquire a permanent showroom in the future.

A suggestion that I have for Indochino would be to develop a simulation of what a customized suit or outfit would look as the customer designs it. Currently, when modifying a suit on their website, the customizations are shown as a small, generic drawing of what the change looks like. I believe that having the option to see what the modifications will look like for that specific suit fabric as well as having the ability to pair that suit with different shirts and accessories on a full-body scale will enhance the consumer’s decision-making process. This would not only be a vast improvement to the website, but also an enhancing feature of a showroom on a large touchscreen.
Information Sources

Saturday, February 11, 2017

HMV: Where did they go wrong?

HMV, which is known for its specialty in music, film, video games, and other technological products, is closing its doors after 30 years of operation within the Canadian market. The company struggled to compete online with other retailers such as Amazon, as well as supermarkets such as Tesco, and Sainsbury and therefore have seen a decline in sales and footfall over recent years. Due to the decline in sales and the money owed for rent, as well as to its lenders and suppliers, the company had to make the decision to liquidate assets and close the doors to future business. 

This outcome could have been prevented if management got with the ‘digital age’ and made the required changes to the business plan and/or strategy to align with advances in technology, the rise in online retailers, and the change in consumer preferences, as they were becoming more evident. Instead of focusing on a specific area with the most opportunity, HMV tried to master a bunch of different areas at the same time. This was shown when they spent shareholders cash, investing in unsuccessful businesses, such as Zavvi, Fopp, and Ottakars. They spent their efforts to get into selling books when their business was known for music, films, and other technological products. This was not the case for all investments as HMV purchased Mama, which was a company known for managing music artists and live events. This business decision made sense, however, did not make up for the bad business decisions made prior to this.

With HMV already struggling to solidify their niche in the market, it seemed inevitable that the growth of high speed internet and inflow of online retailers would eventually wipe them out. This was especially evident, as the demand for digital downloads increased in the early 2000s. Companies such as Netflix, iTunes, and various pirate websites made it hard for HMV to continue to compete. Even PVR devices from network providers had an impact. Purchasing the physical DVD or CD was becoming less necessary/desired for the consumer due to the accessibility of the product elsewhere at a cheaper price. 

For those individuals who still appreciate having a physical copy of the CD, DVD, etc., cheaper products have been made available through online retailers like Amazon, Tesco, and Sainsbury. These companies offer both the convenience and affordability factor. The online stores have the capacity to offer a higher variety of products since they do not need a physical store to hold the products before they sell. This allows the online retailers to keep up with the rapid product evolution and innovation. For the consumers who are not yet at the stage where they feel comfortable to purchase products online, they can go to a physical supermarkets. These are still often more desirable than specialty stores given their size and ability to offer a product at a cheaper price. 

HMV had the brand developed to be successful if they only would have played their cards right. It would have been beneficial for them to focus primarily on the music and film industry and try and master that before taking anything else on. On top of narrowing their focus, they should have jumped on board with Amazon when they saw the opportunity. If they would have created a stronger presence online and made it easier for consumers to access their products, they might be in a very different position than they are right now. 

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Starbucks: From coffee store to living style

  Yesterday I walked out of the door of a Starbucks with a cup of latte, tried to catch my next train to school, and getting used to "buy a coffee and leave" style life. Just like all of Canadians do in this normal coffee store. I believe that you may not know that Starbucks is doing totally different business across the Pacific Ocean. When Starbucks open the first store in Asia, especially in China, they have been forced change their position and strategy for better fit in the Chinese market.

  Chinese beverage market is huge and full of competitions. As a traditional tea-drinking culture there is almost no room for coffee to get in. Many other coffee company has tried but failed immediately. In China people like to chat, play chess, and even gamble in the traditional tea store (Bar).

By the time passing, new generation has been tired of this old stuff and looking for new stimulation. Starbucks come in and use its way to take over the market.

Starbucks’ strategy in China is different compare to western countries. They build a fancy and complex store to attract people, using the best interior design and furniture to create a wonderful atmosphere to make people desire to stay there. To better attract people to drink coffee instead of tea. Every Starbucks will have a mini fake coffee factory. To present the process of making coffee. And also using the real baked coffee beans to dress it. A lot of people who are already addicted to Stay in Starbucks, they think they can stay here study or work more efficient than other places, it brings relaxation to them. The response to this new product is positive, the flavor is connect to Starbucks tide and people were impressed. Its goal is no longer to sell people cups of coffee but also want it them to like Starbucks’ culture. Its effect is huge. It now has over 2000 Starbucks in China.

Starbucks set its stores carefully in China. It is almost focusing on the center of a city, surrounded by outlets stores and luxury stores. It create an impressions to potential customers that Starbucks is the signature of high classes. The unique Starbucks’ atmosphere is also changing by various location. If it is near a library or Concert Hall, it will has some activities such as: a book for a free coffee.

 If it is near to entertainment places, it will furniture like this:
 If it is located in a thousands years old town for tourist, it will look like this.

   Apparently Starbucks is way more different in China, Even though the taste of coffee is the same.



Monday, February 6, 2017

Emotional Ties to Disney

It’s no secret that Disney is one of the biggest business empires in the world. From movies, theme parks, and cruise lines to merchandise stores in malls, generations of children have grown up around the characters they have created. The Disney experience, known for having a friendly, open and magical atmosphere has translated itself into the in-store experience.
Inside the store itself, the shoppers are immediately greeted by friendly staff members. The soundtrack of the latest Disney movies are played through loud speakers, and scenes from the films are shown on a big digital projector in a viewing area. Focused on the system 1 of information processing, Disney pulls on the emotional ties that children and even adults have with the movies to market their products. The merchandise is displayed like reminders of memories, and the more primal and fast decision making process is engaged. Shopping at the Disney Store is like an adventure itself, as some of the bigger chain stores allow children to tailor their experiences through activities such as being able to build their own customized vehicles from the movie “Cars”, and interactive displays such as a Magic Mirror.
Image result for disney store castle
Alongside the displays, the store carries merchandise for both the classic Disney characters as well as the new films. While it seems as if the store is catered to children at first glance, it also draws on an older generation of nostalgic adults. The toys are catered to the children, but costumes for children aged 0-5 are often from the classic films as the parents are the target market. The newer movies are the ones often made into toys, as they go in and out of style quicker than the classics which have longer selling power. So while action figures may have the newest characters from Frozen or Moana, travel mugs, stuffed animals, and books are the more often older characters such as Cinderella, or Toy Story.

Lastly, the Disney stores ensures that every point of contact an adult or child has in the story conveys the brand and story they are trying to create. There are in-store events held with costumed staff, and activities designed for kids. When you leave the store, they reinforce the experience by telling you to “have a magical day”. Because movie merchandise is not a staple item, the stores really push towards having customers make their decisions based off of pre-existing emotional connections when making purchases.
Image result for disney store

While I may be in my early twenties, I know that myself and other in my age group are still often drawn in to the allure of the store’s atmosphere. Every time I see a new Peter Pan mug, it brings me back to my childhood, and I immediately want to add it to my collection of Peter Pan themed beverage containers. The focus on the emotional connections to sell products has worked well for Disney, and they continue to evolve their store to become an increasingly engaging customer experience.



Sage Natural Wellness: Exciting Relaxation?

A couple of weeks ago, I was at Southgate mall just wanting a moment. It was a day of mass errands and mental checklists, and it was starting to rub me the wrong way. So literally right in the middle of grocery shopping, and passport photos, I decided to step into a store I never had before: Saje Natural Wellness.

Saje natural wellness’ aim is to make their customers feel better naturally. Founded in 1992, it’s creator Jean-Pierre Leblanc wanted believed the more natural a health solution was, the more effective it would be, and from there he produced the first essential oils which continues to be the cornerstone of the brand today. Combined with partner Rose LeBlanc’s passion for retail and design, Saje’s goal has always been to share the founder’s discovery for wellness and remedy through beautiful customer experiences.

Now Saje stores have been in the mall for as far as I can remember, and they upgraded their store size and location just a little while ago. Admittedly though, I had always brushed the store off as being just another bath and body store, and a weaker one at that.I do not have much affinity to those types of products to begin with, and Saje just seemed a little boring. With all that being said, my first visit to Saje really left me impressed.

Upon walking into the store, I actually found myself drawn to the left side versus the right. It helps that the entrance spot encourages this, but overall the store has their more expensive essential oils on the left side, more affordable bath and body products on the right, and decorative fragrance diffusers in the middle. The workers were very nice, the products are quite pretty, and each product has a nice tester that is as noticeably clean as the rest of the store. On top of that, what Saje really does well for me is in atmospherics.

The lighting does a fantastic job of adding warmth, glow, and ambiance to the space, perfectly illuminating the earth tone colour scheme the store presents. The scent of the store is fragrant, but gentle, as if it considers that sometimes the stronger the scent is not always the better.  Also any music that was played was soft, both elements being employed more to accent the layout rather than override it, which in my opinion delivered much more impact.

Lastly,  the actual displays themselves were gorgeously meticulous in both organization and bounty. Usually I find these kind of store displays so packed or cluttered with either the excessive amount of product, or the limited amount of space. Saje seemed to know exactly how much product to have out, with each shelf being well planned, and each row being perfectly spaced out with all products at the front, and uniformly lined up. The displays looked neat and tidy, and shelves were very well-maintained.Not sure if this was the direction, or just a coincidence (I was the only one in there), but I would like to say the first.

My favourite thing I saw was this roller-ball display with the crystal platform. Saje’s packaging in general is very good quality, but the actual roller-ball itself looked exactly like it’s respective crystal platform. Ultimately, it is something like this that makes me want to visit Saje again. This specific shelf perfectly captures the store’s sharp subtlety and strong attention to detail, display into me a brand that is mature,thoughtful, and who understands exactly what it offers. Overall, these elements worked very well together to produce a relaxing and even elegant vibe, transcending the holistic energy of the store into something really palpable for me. It was the best breath of fresh air I had taken in a while, and the calmness I felt leaving, left me excited for more.


TOPSHOP: A Neighbour to Canada's Iconic Department Store

Since launching in 1964, UK based Topshop has become the lead of the international fast fashion movement, offering fashion-forward consumers with affordable pieces based off current catwalk trends. With over 300 stores in the UK, Britan’s high-street style champion also operates in 37 other countries around the world. Topshop came to Canada in 2011, opening its first 15,000 square foot store inside Hudson’s Bay in Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall.
In Canada, The Hudson’s Bay Company owns franchise rights for Topshop, including the rights for shops within stores as well as stand alone stores. Topshop currently has 18 stand alone stores in Canada (all of which are either connected or in close proximity to Hudson’s Bay) and 4 “temporary” stores which are Topshop sections inside Hudson’s Bay.
Topshop in Yorkdale Mall, Toronto
Having Topshop located next to Hudson’s Bay ultimately benefits both companies. The Hudson’s Bay Company has been trying to reposition itself since the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue purchased it in 2008 and Topshop adds a youthful and hip vibe to the department store, something of which I personally think it was lacking. Moreover, Topshop introduces Hudson’s Bay to many new and younger customers due to its up-to-the-minute, entry-level fashion and affordable prices. From Topshop’s point of view, The Hudson’s Bay being so iconic in Canada’s history makes it easy for the company to quickly penetrate the Canadian market. Also, having Topshop alongside Hudson’s Bay’s flagship stores, which are located in the high-traffic areas of Canada’s biggest cities, ensures great exposure to the Canadian public.
Aside from being placed with Hudson’s Bay, Topshop stores themselves are very appealing to the eye and not to mention, huge! When I visited my first Topshop store in Las Vegas, I was mainly attracted to its size and its modern look. The store had a large variety of clothing and departments but was still big and sleek enough to not overwhelm the customer with all of its different options. The colour scheme of the store was fairly neutral, sticking to black, white, and grey tones, yet was still dynamic as pops of colour were provided by the clothing on the racks and mannequins. Being the vanguard of fast-fashion, Topshop is constantly keeping up with different trends, meaning they are always changing what clothing they have out on their racks. Luxurious and industrial design features were also used to create a modern, on-trend look. This includes the use of shiny metal alongside wood accents and neon lighting alongside rough brick finishes. Overall, the store presented a lot of contrast in its design, which goes hand in hand with Topshop’s vibrant brand personality.

Topshop in Vancouver
Topshop in Vancouver
Even though we only have a “temporary” Topshop location in Edmonton, Topshop is still one of my go-to places when I am in need of any type of clothing. To me, Topshop represents a one-stop shopping experience as it has so many different departments. It is fashion forward, has a hip and spunky store design, and is represented by so many famous faces around the world giving it a great brand image. I don’t think I would compare it to any other store in Edmonton.

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