Retail in Europe has been suffering.
Blame it on the weather – either too hot or too cold – on the economy – the Eurozone is not in the best shape ever – or on consumers’ mood – and here the reasons are as diverse as you can think of – the fact is that stores have not been selling much during the main months of the fashion season. And at the end of June, many stores seem to still have a lot of that season merchandise.
No longer really interested in the 10 or 20 percent-offs provided by mid-season sales, private sales events and various promotional activities, consumers seem to have been waiting for the real deal – namely the 50 percent-plus mark. Sweet deals on It-bags, season must-haves and timeless classics are all the rage.
Having been a lot in Paris for the past 5 weeks, I have become the witness of a new buying behaviour. I have been observing the crowds in the main shopping areas, especially in the department stores. France being one of the few places where official sale dates are regulated and dictated by the law, it was amazing for me to see how crowds have been moving at the same pace as as the discount rates. Six weeks ago, I enjoyed a peaceful stroll through Le Bon Marché, checking out the delightfully curated merchandise in an almost empty store. On a Saturday. Come 8 July, I stopped at Le Bon Marché after spending the day at Mode City, the lingerie and swimwear trade show, in need of some serious retail therapy. I was shocked. Never in my whole life had I seen so many people at Le Bon Marché (I have been coming for almost 20 years). From the ground floor accessories section to the designer floor and passing by the “younger” section located above the food hall, the store was literally packed. And I must say that the deals were really sweet and the merchandise premium: runway looks, season essentials and beautiful pieces were all there, for a fraction of the original price; clothes, shoes, bags and accessories, everything was there.
Sure I have witnessed the sale craze in New York City when Saks, Barneys and Bergdorf went on sale and where I could find a few interesting items but by no means the “iconic pieces” that have been gracing the pages of fashion magazines were to be found everywhere and in all shapes, sizes and colours. Unlike what has been happening in Paris.
A couple of days later, the same thing happened at Le Printemps. While walking around the Boulevard Haussmann area, I entered Le Printemps because I was a bit tired and it is usually much quieter than its much more famous and popular neighbor Galeries Lafayette. Not on that Tuesday. The department store was so full that I had to flee.
So what is happening? Has the economy hit so hard that it has already fundamentally changed the shoppers’ behaviour, making them rather wait a bit than pay full price? Have we all been for many years so influenced by the media to instantly buy so-called “it-items” of all kinds that we have become jaded – fed-up even- to keep on doing it and the slumpy economy just provided the perfect excuse to do so? Has fashion become so versatile and timeless, that it is no longer mandatory to walk around with “just in-season” looks? After many retail golden years fuelled by the emergence of new media and the subsequent overexposure of fashion, have we simply just changed? Sure, we still love fashion and outfits that have the power to make us feel shiny and new, but it seems that we no longer are prepared to pay the full retail price, because what we seem to love even more now is a real bargain. What do you think?
Having been silent for many weeks now, I have decided to rekindle my relationship with you by letting a guest blogger express his opinion. This is what Andreas wrote when I asked him to tell me something about his relationship to shopping. What do you think?
Spending a few days in New York has always been a very special experience. Great food in elegant, mythical, superlative restaurants, walks – sometimes even jogs – on the High Line, museums and comedy clubs – are a few elements of the ever-exciting journey. But a few days in New York also mean intensive Shopping.
For instance at Barneys. Owning over 350 pairs of shoes is still not enough for my girlfriend and she will always need something new, because exactly this model is still missing in her collection. So I got to know all the floors at Barneys by heart. Needless to say that I have used each and every sitting opportunity – and I would like to thank the people at Barneys who have understood that a male individual does not need to formulate an opinion about each and every hanging dress and that he sometimes needs a short break from perusing the endless racks throughout the many floors. And let’s not forget that without me too close, the sales associate can communicate freely with one of their favorite customers – aka my girlfriend – , because the sitting opportunities are always a bit far from the clothes racks.
But there are also floors that I very much like. The shoe floor, for instance. There a few things as fascinating as watching a woman getting transformed into someone totally different simply by putting on a pair of shoes. How she suddenly is perceived differently because she moves in a straighter, sexier manner, thanks to a pair of high heels. There a very few places where one can admire so many beautiful women on such a small surface and get a glimpse of what can be a really intimate moment.
But I also cannot help wondering why those women willingly and gladly impose on themselves the whole stress of trying on, putting on and off clothes and shoes so many times. In my opinion, women do this solely because they always want to reinvent themselves, because they never want to become boring and just want to stay desirable – to the others but also to themselves. And this is a reason enough for me to play along and be interested. And when my interest is true, it is often impatient and very enlightening. Which guy who has grown up solely wearing jeans and t-shirts and who works in very technical field mostly with other guys can say that he is able to recognize a Dior dress, a pair of Louboutin shoes, a Moschino, Lanvin, Comme des Garçons or Marni piece of clothing just by looking at a rack? And believe me that this knowledge can really be useful in better understanding my female counterparts and their relationship to shoes, clothes, hair and makeup and this understanding is even very useful in my professional life because it gives me clues about how interesting a personality someone can have.
Don’t get me wrong – I often need to overcome my natural instincts especially when all I want to do is check out the latest gadgets at Best Buy or cameras at Adorama. And interestingly enough, in spite of all my Shopping tolerance (and sometimes – let’s be honest – huge efforts), when I ask her to come along, I just hit a granite wall and have to go alone. Arguments and pleas – e.g. that I have already been 4 times to Barneys in less than a week - are unfortunately useless – I have unfortunately come to realize.
And this is when I ask myself: are women simply intransigent beings that only want to do what they want to do? And from the time I got my answer I go along shopping with the self-control and patience of a Zen master, because yes, they are. But the crazy thing is that they don’t just do it for themselves. They also do it for us men. Unlike us.
While perusing the thousands of pages the fall magazine issues gave us this year, one distinct trend caught my eye.
I first saw the Tommy Hilfiger spread and thought nothing of it because the format was similar to what they have been doing for some time now and it had always reminded my of the campaigns Ralph Lauren has been doing forever. Then I saw the Pepe Jeans ad and thought « weird, it reminds me of the Tommy Hilfiger visual » and as I went through Elle US, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Jalouse and many other titles I saw one frequent and very constant element in many fall ad campaigns: group photos. And not any random group of models that happen to stand next to each other in a photo studio, but photos of groups that look like friends, family, in any case people who clearly seem to have emotional ties.
For a long time, brands have used models – preferably one model at a time, also called spokesperson – to represent who they are, the ideal their customers would project themselves into. Isabella Rossellini was Lancôme’s face for so long that even today when I think of Lancôme I cannot help seeing her face, even though she has since then (the 80’s!) been replaced by a plethora of models – one of the recent ones even being her daughter Elettra. And what would Donna Karan’s successful career woman image be without Rosemary McGrotha?
Then they started using actors and celebrities and they added a certain lifestyle dimension to their brands, a certain situational element that made their brand image a bit deeper and more versatile.
Then at some point everyone wanted Kate Moss.
But in those really troubled times that seem to last longer and be even more tragic that everyone had thought, frivolity and superficial ideals have to be toned down. Sure models remain essential to depict an ideal beauty to aspire to. And some actors undoubtedly have the power to make you think that they cannot be successful or even live (George Clooney for Nespresso, anyone?) without certain products they vouch for. But somehow when the going gets tough, in the real world, there is nothing better than having friends and family to stick with. And social networks are not only Internet-based tools. For the first time in history, real social cohesion has been happening, certainly supported and facilitated by everything technology has to offer, but foremost because people have realized that if they stick together they can learn more, achieve more and certainly change things – hopefully for the better. From Wikipedia to the Arab Spring, people have managed to do things that a few years ago could not have been thought of as merely probable.
And many brands have understood this. Instead of creating a fantasy world that only can exist in someone’s imagination, they decided to show an ideal that seems to be attainable for everyone; an ideal that inextricably carries guaranteed happiness within. Because, at the end of the day, what could be a greater source of joy in life than a happy family and a circle of supportive friends? And by the way, is it surprising that one of the biggest press coverages this fall is Kate Moss’s bucolic wedding surrounded by her family and friends?
Aesop was a slave, a storyteller who lived in Ancient Greece between 620 and 560 B.C. His stories – or fables – always contained a moral connotation and learning of some sort and they are among the best known in the world. Aesop’s fables have been adapted in many languages and dialects, by eminent poets and popular bards and have been used across many centuries for the moral education of children, because they used finesse and storytelling to explain ethical and humanistic concepts in a simple, entertaining manner. Being initially French educated, I can still remember Jean de La Fontaine’s “La Cigale et la Fourmi” (The Grasshopper and the Ant) and it has been one of my favorite fables since age 8– even though I never have managed to apply its learnings to myself…
Aesop is also the name of company founded in Melbourne, Australia in 1987 that makes beautifully packaged, great-smelling products for the face, body and hair. Mainly plant-based, Aesop products also include non-botanical ingredients that are effective while remaining safe and gentle.
The first time I saw an Aesop cream was about 7 years ago in London, at the Liberty Beauty Hall space that has now become a COS store. Amid the colorful displays and the kaleidoscopic makeup counters, the Aesop table clearly stood out: rows of dark jars and bottles bearing white labels inscribed in a clean, very modern font –to me they looked as if they contained a remedy composed by a modern-day alchemist. I was intrigued. And when the saleswoman put a dab of some heavenly scented cream on my hand, I was hooked. I bought the cream which was labeled “Relax Aromatique Body Balm – 2003-04 Vintage” and I still have a little left in the glass preciously stored in my bathroom cabinet. The cream still smells great, by the way – absolutely no signs of aging – and I dab some on my pulse points from time to time – frankincense, bergamot and an irresistible blend just make me feel wonderful.
Throughout the years I have regularly bought Aesop products from small, niche boutiques and I can safely say that it has been a brand that always attracted my eye. But what I saw a few days ago in London really surprised me and beyond simple attraction, it made me love Aesop. I was walking on Westbourne Grove, when the familiar packaging caught my eye. I saw that it was a standalone boutique and crossed the street to look closer.
It was a store with the simplest design: dark shelves with the products displayed – sometimes in rigorous order and sometimes in a calculated mess –, clean and minimalistic but as I came closer I could not repress a smile. The floor of this simple, very graphic store was literally covered with tree leaves. And the two employees were walking around organising the products and their footsteps made this unmistakable crisp noise that I could hear from the outside and that instantly made me want to talk a long walk in a forest or a park.
So I go in. And I suddenly remember that I have always wanted to try the Geranium Leaf Body Balm – and particularly after my friend Romaine had told me that the smell of Geranium kept toxic people away…-
The inside of the store is really very simple: three units of 3-tier black tables are displayed behind each other, a white ceramic sink at the far end of the store and on the right hand side the same 3-tier table with the cash register, a few glass containers filled with products and the house perfumes on it. The walls have names of writers and poets as well as quotes written on them.
The products are displayed in rows and sometimes the bottom shelves contain blank books or tubes of product in a pile. Aesop have also composed a few kits that contain series of products – those kits are named after streets where Aesop stores are located: Rue St Honoré (Paris), Oberdorfstrasse (Zurich), Westbourne Grove (London)…and they add a fresh graphical element to the whole store. In all, the store is very simple, uses no-fuss furniture and lets the products be the stars in their own, understated way.
The cream I would like to purchase is called Geranium Leaf Body Balm is in a bright green tube (and with just one other body balm in an orange tube constitute the only real colours in the store) and I spot it immediately. I tell the smiling young lady that it is what I would like, she asks if I just want the cream or the whole kit I say just the cream, she wraps it in a fabric pouch, makes me try two perfumes that I was interested in smelling, gives me a few samples to try, I pay, take a few pictures and leave. Perfect.
After spending a week in London looking at many beautiful stores in their Christmas attire, the only store I felt like writing about is Aesop. It somehow touched me. And I think many retailers could learn a moral lesson from Aesop – sometimes keeping it simple, letting the product shine and adding a whimsical idea that makes people have a happy thought and smile is all that is required to make you fall in love.
I am very excited to announce that I will be speaking at the In-Store Marketing event that will take place on 25 November in London. My topic will be: “Mystery Shopper Secrets – Uncovered”. I will be sharing some of my mystery shopping findings as well as my experience with the retailing of telecommunications and entertainment products and services.
For more details: http://www.instoremarketingevents.com/?paged=2
Make sure you don’t miss this unique event that will be focusing on the most compelling retail marketing initiatives available in retail today.And let me know if you need any VIP access.
Looking forward to seeing you all there!
Modern elegance, perennial craftsmanship
Since its foundation in 1837, Hermès has always been a staple of craftsmanship, a dedication to quality and the synonym of French elegance.What had begun as a saddle shop became a lifestyle brand – probably the most luxurious of them all -, creating products to suit the evolving needs of its discerning customers. From sports goods to handbags, from couture to jewelry to fragrance and tableware, Hermès products possess a unique combination of cutting edge modernism, timeless elegance and traditional savoir-faire.
Hermès had very quickly understood the importance of symbols. In the early 1950‘s – just before marketing and advertising boomed and became the vehicles for consumption – they created their logo and made a certain shade of orange their own, using it for its packaging and its print materials: the Hermès brand had become the unmistakable synonym of luxurious French elegance.
Over the years, Hermès products became highly coveted objects of desire, worn and carried by movie stars, royalty and jet-setters and Hermès – in a visionary marketing “coup de génie” – quickly identified this as an opportunity they could not miss.
- Created in 1937, the “sac à dépêches” handbag became the “Kelly bag” after a photograph of Grace Kelly – the new princess of Monaco – carrying it was published in Life magazine. Everybody back then wanted to be as classy and stylish as Princess Grace and the already quite popular bag became a must-have, a status it still currently enjoys.
- In 1959 the Constance bag was launched. Its sleek design was the perfect companion to the prim, sleek outfits of Jackie Onassis, who adopted it. It became otherwise known as the “Jackie O” and the waiting lists have not diminished since.
- In 1984, an accidental plane encounter between actress/singer Jane Birkin and Hermès Chairman Jean-Louis Dumas, resulted in the creation of “the Birkin”, a bag that has been at the top of the ultimate accessory list ever since.
Hermès continue to create great products to this day, innovating while stubbornly maintaining the tradition of craftsmanship.
Defining cool elegance, winning a brand new customer
Jean-Louis Dumas – who became the Chairman of Hermès in the late 1970’s – knew that, in order to survive in the post-1968 world, he had to initiate big changes. In 1978, he ran an advertisement portraying a jeans-clad young woman wearing a Hermès scarf and turned the brand image around. Hermès was no longer a brand for older people who spent weekends riding and hunting; it had also become the purveyor of fine goods for a young generation who valued quality and aspired to achieve effortless elegance.
Throughout the 1980’s, Hermès – who remained a favorite among the rich and famous – kept on catering to the younger generation. It even was integrated by name in a fashion movement that was a counter-reaction to punk and new wave, very popular in France, Belgium, Luxemburg and Switzerland : CPCH the acronym of “Collier de perles, carré Hermès” was the 18-year old version of BCBG or “Bon Chic Bon Genre” who just got her first pearl necklace and Hermès scarf…
It was also in the 1980’s that Hermès hired young up and coming designer Eric Bergère. The talented Esmod graduate held the position of creative director until 1987 and kept the brand attractive to the young without scaring off the older generations of loyal customers.
Injecting cutting-edge, avant-garde style
The next phase of taking the brand further was marked by the appointment of Martin Margiela as artistic director in 1987. Margiela, a graduate of the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts (that had produced the avant-garde collective the Antwerp Six) had worked for Jean-Paul Gaultier from 1985 to 1987 before founding his own brand in 1989.
From 1997 to 2004, Margiela created a series of beautifully cut, understated clothes in incredibly luxurious fabrics. Invisible to the eye of the media and working in the shadow, Margiela and his work were only known to the edgy fashion connoisseurs. And if his time at Hermès was not acknowledged nor appreciated to its real value by the “masses”, Margiela injected Hermès with a dose of avant-garde, while keeping its heritage intact.
In 2004 generation X was already making money and generation Y was on its way, so what is better than giving them an icon of their youth, the man who brought corsets back – but this time as a piece of clothing and not underwear -, and who dressed Madonna on her way to pop queendom? Jean-Paul Gaultier the “enfant terrible” of French fashion was hired as creative director. At Hermès, Jean-Paul Gaultier stayed true to himself while assimilating the Hermès DNA and he did what he did best. He took the classics, he took the icons and transformed them into elements of fabulous cool.
Jean-Paul Gaultier created Hermès ultra-luxe versions of the clothes he did so well and re-invented the Hermès iconic pieces. Several versions of the Kelly and the Birkin were created, again attracting a whole new breed of clientele who could now express their cool difference with accessories their mothers did not possess.
In May 2010, it was announced that Christophe Lemaire, creative director of Lacoste, would replace Jean-Paul Gaultier and his first collection would be for Fall 2011, showing in March of the same year in Paris.
Below are a few examples of the iconic products that have been re-created during the Jean-Paul Gaultier era
Le carré – a legend on its own
Created in 1937, the Hermès scarf was created. The first motif was called “Jeu des Omnibus et Dames blanches”. A dedicated scarf factory was set up in Lyon. Today the Hermès scarf represents 60% of Hermès’ revenue.
Hermès wanted to have a unique product and controlled the production of the scarves from purchasing the Chinese raw silk that allowed them to weave the twill – the heaviest scarf silk on the market- to hand-printing and hand-rolling each and every piece.
From the very beginning, Hermès used the scarves as an opportunity to showcase talented artists and make their work available to the public in a new, disruptive way. Hermès currently produces two scarf collections per year and to over 2’500 motifs have been printed to date.
Similarly to what they have done with the apparel and accessories, Hermès decided to take the scarf cult to the next level : in 2003 they hired the stylist Bali Barret as creative director for silk. And Barret delivered. Whether by creating new dimensions, introducing new silks or new printing techniques, she strengthened the icon status of the carré and, in true Hermès manner, managed to keep its soul while transforming its body.
Pushing the “alternative art showcase” a bit further, Hermès produced a limited edition of 6 carrés in hommage to Josef Albers, the Bauhaus-era artist.
Hermès scarves have become collector items and the subject of a real following by millions of fans.
Hermès stores – temples of a lifestyle
The first Hermès store was opened in 1880 at 24, Rue du Faubourg St Honoré in Paris, next to the Palais de l’Elysée. This store is still open for business and the building hosts the Hermès headquarters.
The Hermès store expansion took place in the 1970’s, with Hermès opening in multiple locations across Europe, the US and Japan.
Very early, Hermès understood the importance of location and the concept of “very local marketing” combined with a real understanding of the evolution of retail and has always managed to give its stores a local touch, adapted to its surroundings and its customers while keeping them true to the brand values and philosophy.
In the 1990’s, Hermès started to reduce the number of franchises while increasing own stores, in order to better control its image and sales.
In the 2000’s, the Hermès stores were re-designed, becoming lighter, more modern, more appealing to a new generation of young customers – shopping was a main activity for generation X who now had the means to spend seriously and generation Y was not very far behind. Just in time for the unprecedented luxury brand frenzy of the noughties, Hermès was ready.
The architect of choice for Hermès was Rena Dumas. Until her death at the age of 71, the wife of Jean-Louis Dumas continuously created new Hermès shops that perfectly fit in their surroundings and maintained the brand identity, while never being the same. The legacy of Rena Dumas is perpetuated by the team that is working at her eponymous firm RDAI (Rena Dumas Architecture Intérieure).
Hermès Madison Homme
In 2010 Hermès opened a new kind of shop New York’s Madison Avenue: Hermès Madison Homme.
A men’s only store, it anticipates the real emergence of the sophisticated, luxury male shopper, a shopper who wants to shop at brands that really know what he needs and give him the real space he deserves as a real consumer. In order to indulge in Hermès, he no longer has to shop in a dominantly ladies’ store do, within a small space dedicated to his presumably much smaller needs…he doesn’t even need to take the ladies with him anymore. He has become knowledgeable in the matters of style…
The store has four floors totaling 2450 square feet and gives the customer the feeling that he is perusing a beautifully executed walk-in closet…
Hermès@Liberty – pop-up magic
In 2009, Hermès ventured into a new territory. After opening a temporary summer store in East Hampton, New York from May to September, Hermès decided to totally embrace a the pop-up idea by opening a temporary store within legendary department store Liberty in London.
Opened from September 7 to October 18, the store dedicated to scarves and ties also sold a limited edition of Hermès pour Liberty scarves.
For the unique occasion, Liberty’s windows were clad in Hermès orange, filled with Hermès boxes and a miniature replica of the store was created using Hermès boxes and paper…
Above the accessories department, an installation made with the scarves created for the occasion announced the spirit…
And in a separate room, a totally new Hermès experience awaited the customers…
The whole space was arranged playfully and contrarily to the neatly colour-coordinated displays of scarves and ties you could see – with the help of sales associate – in the Hermès stores, everything was displayed in a manner inviting the customers to touch, experiment, play by themselves…
The whole Hermès universe was present and shown in an approachable, tongue-in- cheek way…the boxes were used to create 3-dimensional logos, peek a boo displays…
It was telling the customers “…sure Hermès is a house built on tradition and craftsmanship producing the highest quality scarves and ties but we love to play and we would love it for you to play with us, experience us from very very close…”
So how does Hermès do it?
Probably one of the oldest and most prestigious luxury houses in the world, Hermès has always managed to stay true to its core values, relevant and remain a staple of elegance.
What has nevertheless been remarkable is the fact that since the early 1950‘s Hermès managed to continuously attract a younger and different customer, while maintaining the loyalty of the “older” brand devotees. Hermès could achieve this by:
Storytelling - Understanding the importance of telling a story to the customers, a story that fuels their fantasy, their ideals and makes them include Hermès in their everyday lifestyle. It becomes the catalyst in making their fantasy become reality.
Streetsmart - Being always open to the trends and lifestyle happening on the streets, embracing them and including their iconic products in a contemporary picture: this strategy has brought the Hermès products closer to the new consumers of every decade.
Risk-taking - Never being afraid to take risks and move forward. By hiring young and avant-garde designers, Hermès could always re-invent itself and manage to stay authentic.
No compromise - Using a no-compromise branding policy by maintaining the brand core elements while playing with the messages – to suit the times – has proven to be one of the most successful advertising strategies. Yearly changing “themes” and taglines maintains the brand fresh and creates neverending consumer curiosity.
Super local - Living the “being global but so very local”, Hermès has built a store network always different but always vibrating with the brand spirit, making each customer visit an experience on its own.
Customer centric - Identifying new breeds of customers very early and anticipating their needs – whether creating new products, e.g. the Jypsière for young urban explorers, or a new kind of store e.g. Hermès Madison Homme – Hermès has proven that it puts the customers at the heart of everything it does.
Adventurous - Embracing new forms of retail such as pop-up stores has once again proved that Hermès wants to get even closer to its customers. The pop-up store of Liberty even took the notion of “close” to an intimate level…
New York City, July 2009. Ten months after the recession hit the city, the retail landscape had drastically changed. Legendary stores closed down, leaving prime locations empty. World-renowned brands filed for bankrupcy or came very close…
In those times of economic turmoil, more than ever, luxury brands need to reassure their loyal customers, make them believe that the money they spend on their fine goods is not just futile shopping. It is an investment. And as for their new, potential customers, those who aspire to live like the “old money” wealthy, the rich and famous, they need to tell them that by buying their goods they have made the right choice, they are on their way of having a piece of that fabulous lifestyle they aspire to…
In summer 2009, prestigious brands dressed their Madison Avenue store windows to “spell out” Heritage and authenticity in order to reassure their customers and tell them that when they buy their products, they are not merely shopping, they are investing in real values.
A few beautifully executed examples:
The ultimate in French luxury since 1837, clearly displays its origins, but with a wink…They show their saddle-making origins, combined with original artwork of horses…
…and integrating iconic, much sought after products or objects of desire such as the Birkin…
…while reminding the customer of all the dedicated workmanship it all requires, by adding “raw” and unformed pieces of leather.
And on the storefront walls and on top of the building, they always show where all comes from…
So what are they saying?
- We are a French company that has been around for over 170 years and we are proud of what we do
- We started by making saddles and we still produce the finest, using traditional techniques
- We apply the same dedication to excellence and fine craftsmanship to everything we do
- We support culture, artists and use our store windows to display their work and get the (right) public to know them without having to go to a gallery or a museum
- …so dear customers, at Hermès you are not merely shopping. You are investing in a sure value, a piece of history, in a brand that is everlasting and is the ultimate in French elegance.
Valentino Garavani, founder of the eponymous couture brand retired in 2008. In the 45 years he ran his couture house, Valentino had become the synonym of Italian elegance and had built a worldwide base of very loyal customers. His clothes had always been timelessly chic but what had made a piece immediately recognisable was its unique shade of red – the Valentino Red.
In order to reassure the loyal customers that in spite of the Master leaving, the Valentino Madison Avenue store windows show that his spirit remains and that the style, the elegance and the Red are here to stay.
The tinted glass boxes bring a modern, tongue in cheek element to the elegance. Those boxes play a game of hide and seek by showing a pair of red pumps..then hiding them…or suddenly you see a red lobster…
So what are they telling us?
- Even though Valentino has retired, his touch, his spirit remain at the heart of the brand
- Red has made us immediately recognisable thanks to you, dear customer. You like it and we will stick to making clothes and accessories in this color that you love
- Elegance and refinement are still what we do, but we are modern
- We love to play hide and seek and we have a sense of humor, like you
- In those times of gloom, beat the blues by being flamboyant, wear red!
- Perpetrate a tradition started by the most elegant women, wear Valentino Red!
What can brands learn from this?
- Use your store windows to express your values. No matter how good your campaign is don’t just replicate it but surprise and titillate your customers’ curiosity by telling them a story
- Show your brand values in a passionate way by being really emotional, fun, quirky, uncomplicated
- Integrate a heritage component to tell your customers that your brand is the right choice, especially in hard times and that you will be there for them, no matter what.
And a few more great examples…
Korres natural products is a Greek company founded in Athens in 1996. Initially set up in Athens’ first-ever homeopathic pharmacy, Korres make scientifically developed products that aim to natural well being and beauty. The Korres product range covers skin care, hair care, makeup and sun products. Korres use herbs and plants from the Greek Flora and also have a range called “Materia Herba” that is eco-certified. They have won numerous awards not only for their products but also for their packaging design, their corporate design and their store design – for the NYC and the Glasgow store.
Korres products – breaking a design convention
Korres products are natural and promote personal well-being. Traditionally, the natural cosmetic market has used very basic and “safe” design for its products- either to show seriousness or for lack of better marketing knowledge.
From the very beginning, Korres have packaged their products beautifully but also in a simple manner that shows expertise and eco-responsibility. They managed to associate great design - to appeal to beauty product addicts usually repelled by the look of natural product packaging – with trustworthiness that is crucial to establish them as a real player in a difficult market.
Packaging design – beautiful, informative, proud
Korres packaging has a strong visual identity that is consistent throughout the whole product range. The main ingredient/theme is always shown in a stylized macro photo and there is clear information about what the aim of the product is and what it contains. Additionally, the product name, info about ingredients etc are always also written in Greek, proudly showing the origins of the company.
From 1996 until 2006 Korres’ retail presence was through big retailers, at which they had corners and shops in shop (1’250 points of sale). In 2006 Korres opened their first stand-alone store and have 31 own stores worldwide to date. The store surface ranges from 20 to 110 m2. The store design is not uniform, nor the same everywhere, but the brand always comes across in an authentic manner.
Various store design approaches created by different architecture agencies have made the Korres stores a living example about how brand identity can be brought alive while being translated differently, with a strong local flavor, depending on the store location.
The above pictures show how authenticity and brand integrity are preserved but translated into totally different stores.
The Glasgow store in detail
Located at the front of a mall on Buchanan Street (The Buchanan Galleries), the store hosts a warm atmosphere and a poetic design – which makes it immediately noticeable – and very inviting – in the white, industrial-style mall.
The store windows are very simple and put the packaging design to use to catch the eye.
Inside the store, wooden palettes – the kind used for stacking and transporting goods – set the mood and give the store an unfinished, imperfect touch, thus making it accessible. Soft light illuminates the palettes as well as the areas of the store that are not exposed to daylight.
Clear, lit shelves display the products that can all be touched and sampled.
No matter which entrance you use, you are invariably oriented towards the products on the walls thanks to the combination of furniture positioning, light and clever product display.
In the makeup area, the furniture is made of original Greek honey containers encased in Plexiglas.
The palette nearest to the register displays gift sets and promotional packages – ready to be taken as they are.
Behind the cash register the company philosophy is displayed for everyone to read.
The products are aligned by category but are accessible for everyone to touch and the beautiful packaging is really part of the whole concept.
Dressed in sleek black, the salespeople are smiling, have a positive attitude and are knowledgeable but never pushy.
What can retailers learn from Korres?
1. Not over-designing everything conveys authenticity
- An imperfect, unfinished look and “raw” materials translate into authenticity and really show that the company concentrates on the essentials – namely the products and NOT the store furniture.
- The “temporary” look makes the store more desirable – “it might go away, so take advantage now” it seems to tell the customers
- The use of unconventional objects to create fixtures suggests spontaneity, creativity and makes the brand more lovable
2. Lighting is crucial and it can make or break a concept
- Korres stores use warm yellow light that are inviting already from the outside
- Products are spotlit like stars on a stage by using stronger light than the one illuminating the furniture and fixtures which draws the customers’ attention and gives the store a shiny happy feel
3. Clearly displaying the company values and philosophy
- Korres is not an old company but they are proud of their products, of their scientific approach and their Greek roots – by clearly displaying who they are and what they believe in, they communicate transparently with their customers.
- Even though this approach is consistent on their packaging and their products in general, they display their values prominently in their stores, at a place where nobody can oversee them – above the cash register.
- This allows the customers to understand who they are buying from and what they are buying without any doubt, which automatically gives them a sense of security and the confirmation that they have made the right choice.
4. Remain true to your values but translate them into various retail concepts
- Whatever the look of their stores, Korres succeed into keeping their spirit intact
- The fact that they adapt their store design to their location – and invariably to their target customers – shows that they have a deep understanding of the importance of local cultural codes and their use as a stage for displaying the brand values and attracting a wide range of customers.
- Being true to the values therefore does not mean having a uniform store concept and respecting brand guidelines does not mean applying corporate design at any price
5. Be consistent in everything you do, have a clear vision and stick to it
- Korres have started with great products, packaged them in a pure, pretty way, created retail concepts that supported their way of doing things and even though they have grown and gone global, they remain true to their initial self
- By doing so they are telling their customers: ” Our products are originated from scientific research, they are effective but are not smelly and ugly, they work, but they are also agreeable to use, smell great and look stylish in your bathroom. You can be beautiful while using products issued by the application of science on nature and also feel beautiful while using them.”