Saturday, March 26, 2005

A most unusual retailer

Garagiste sells wine. But not in the usual way. It began as a co-op about five years ago. Wines are sold one at a time by e-mail only, and the selection process for each wine depends entirely on Jon Rimmerman's taste.
He qualifies his offerings by subjecting them to rigorous scrutiny. In order for Garagiste to sell it, he explains, a wine must fit two or three spokes of criteria: "It has to be best of its type we can find in the world, issues of provenance have to be clear, and we have to be able to sell it at the lowest prices in the U.S."
Besides the steady stream of e-mail offers, Garagiste subscribers have access to an online blog, a drop-in retail space, an annual blow-out "garage sale" and exclusive wine dinners at trendy restaurants nationwide, all at remarkably reasonable prices.

The company is well-known among wine enthusiasts across the country. It has a niche and a strong brand identity based on product expertise and exclusivity.

Retail marketing isn't a staid, mature industry. You can be as innovative as you like ... in fact a well-implemented unusual business model has a better chance for success than just another storefront.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Sexy advertising: the Bowflex grandmother and the Baby Boomers

Bowflex is a "home gym" brand owned by the famous fitness equipment company Nautilus. Bowflex equipment is heavily promoted through television advertising and sold direct via 800-number. Their most famous ad featured Donna McClure, a 50 year old grandmother. Ms. McClure wore a skimpy bikini and sported a body that many women half her age would kill for.

As the huge Baby Boomer market ages, there will certainly be more advertisers creating sexy ads using age-appropriate models. Boomers are well known to be highly resistant to the idea of aging ... yet ads targeting them should use models that are Boomers themselves. Enter the sexy 50-year old models!

How does this ad do with my 3 tests for evaluating sexy ads? After seeing the ad, you definitely remember it was for Bowflex (she's the "Bowflex grandmother"!). The ad is hot enough to be literally remarkable - the ad generated hundreds of blog entries and newspaper mentions. Is the ad a one-off titillation or part of a whole brand identity? I'd say the latter ... Bowflex has always used fit/sexy models in its ads. Ms. McClure is just the first older one.

A product that can put a sexy-fit-young body on a grandmother is certain to capture the Baby-Boomers' attention. A scantily-clad model is relevant to the product advertised ... they're selling better bodies. The only possible objection I have to the ad is that Ms. McClure appears to have had a face-lift and a boob-job. Maybe she hasn't, but the appearance is what matters. The "fake" look seems to upset some women -- and who wants to upset the target audience?

6 steps to get good PR

Kim Gordon at offers 6 steps to getting publicity for your business. This is sound how-to advice that any business can use. Check it out.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Lighting and music in retail stores

The Marketing Eye blog has an interesting entry about the use of indirect lighting and classical music in retail stores. A good ambience is certainly essential to the image and performance of your marketing efforts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Marvin Traub and Bloomingdales

Marvin Traub made Bloomingdale's the "greatest retail show on Earth" during his more than 20 years as a top executive at the department store. He used celebrities and grand events to generate inexpensive publicity. Under Traub's watch, Bloomingdale's devoted more of its resources to public relations than any department store ever had at the time.

Traub created the concept of dividing the selling floor into boutiques and used this setting to showcase then-emerging designers such as Yves Saint Laurent. He also brought a fashion element to home furnishings, housewares and cosmetics.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Brand stores: Cross

Cross pens opened its first store in Harvard Square in Cambridge in April of 2004. A second store opened in a suburb of Boston in November.
Cross stores have given the company an opportunity to display their products in an ideal way. Its consumers have a chance to interact with the brand in a bright, modern environment, and the merchandise is easy to explore, presented colorfully and neatly. Items such as stylish journals and notebooks, bookends and desk accessories add to the mix, and pads of paper are available for people to experience the pens. In addition, the stores offer a perfect combination of classic and contemporary, such as pouches for an Ipod and bags for laptops.

The retail ventures also offer an opportunity for the company to test and sell new products. For example, the Kimono pen, originally introduced in the Cross stores in Harvard Square, was so popular that the company made it available on its web site.
Brand-specific stores are here to stay. What have you done to capitalize on the best brands in your store?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Latest Carnival of Capitalists

This week's Carnival of Capitalists is online at Beyond the Brand blog. The Carnival is an always-interesting collection of links to the week's best business and economics blog entries. Give it a try, you'll like it.

How to turnaround a dot-com retail failure

Seth Greenberg saved by getting down to retail basics. He decreased the payroll from 250 to 3, and moved from swank offices to the warehouse. The online retailer was profitable with 2 years and is now back up to 20 employees and 75,000 products.

Hobby shops traditionally are hard to make profitable because the of the sparse population of hobbyists in any one location. On the other hand, it's a natural industry for online sales because eHobbies can aggregate shoppers nationwide and around the world.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Retail marketing: prepare to make money from mature consumers

Advertisers in Europe have turned their attention to aging Baby Boomers, at least in a small way. The statistics are hard to ignore: In Britain, the 50-plus age group is the only growing demographic segment. Over the next 20 years, the number of Britons older than 75 will leap by 43 percent. In Europe as a whole, the proportion of the population over 65 will grow from 12 percent today to 28.5 percent - easily the largest of any region in the world.

A study last year found that 86 percent of seniors felt ignored by marketers, and 70 percent felt patronized.

Remember ... Baby Boomers will NEVER admit to being "old". They aren't going to act like seniors in the generations that came before them. Appeal to their desire to remain fit, active and involved. You'll reap huge benefits.

Cause marketing: eco-wear

The New York Times reports on FutureFashion, a fashion show sponsored by Earth Pledge, a nonprofit group that promotes environmental programs. It challenged designers to create fashion using only fabrics that were renewable, reusable or generated less pollution than conventional material.

Organic food and beauty products have become a $15 billion industry. Organic fiber clothes are much smaller ($85 million retail for organic cotton in 2003), but interest is growing. The designer Rogan Gregory will introduce organic cotton denim clothing under the Loomstate label in high-end stores such as Barneys and Fred Segal this month. For the more cost-conscious shopper, Sam's Club will start selling 100 percent organic cotton active wear by Chaus at its 550 stores this month, with prices starting at $10. Whole Foods began selling organic cotton clothes and linens from more than 10 companies early this month.

"Green" is a fine niche market for smaller retailers. There's a large group of consumers out there who want organic products and very little competition amongst retailers.