Just over a week ago in Vancouver, some of the team had a quick chat with the Vancouver Sun about successful strategies used by the city's retailers. Cultural curation, a buying strategy that tests and includes buying product categories outside the core business, is one such method in which small retailers have the advantage.
Defining 'cultural curation'
Cultural curation is a buying strategy which is rooted in two aspects - your customers cultural life, and an element of surprise. Cultural curation is about stepping out of your core product zone, and branching into the unexpected for your customer. It is offering a small amount of interesting products which appeal to him/her. For example, if you are a shoe retailer, offering a couple of well-edited books which appeal to your customers sensibilities, home product, fragrance, etc may be considered cultural curation.
"Two-year-old Board of Trade Co. has found this strategy so successful, it now puts an equal focus on men’s clothing, women’s clothing and art objects, owner David Lin said. Items for sale may include handcrafted letter openers from the Sunshine Coast, designer ceramic tumblers from New York and drop-crotch pants from New Zealand. Something must be working because Board of Trade Co opened a second Vancouver store in January."
Advantage - small store retailers
Many large retailers have tried this strategy out, often under a 'gifting' category. However, success has been hard to come by with many of these companies. The buyers tend to be further removed from their customer and are missing the mark when selecting product to offer.
Additionally, larger retailers also tend to have a volume-driven mentality. That is, they are looking for products which will be their next high sales volume product - their next 'flyer' or big hit. Products brought in for this purpose may never achieve those results - and that isn't their purpose. Culturally curated product plays a secondary role, contributing to the shopping experience - the element of surprise - more than sales dollars. American Eagle's paper, gift and book strategy was something they tested, but failed to move forward with it beyond a season.
The Vancouver market will see aggressive growth from major American retailers in the next 2 years. Saks is set to open up both a mainline store and a few off-price operations in the region, Nordstrom has announced their entrance into the market and Holt Renfrew will expand their contemporary off-price offering into the city. This is coupled with new Target stores this year.
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