Category Archives: Retail & the Web

Frank And Oak Launches Womenswear Stores

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Frank And Oak’s new women’s store in Montreal. Photo courtesy of Frank And Oak. 

Modern clothing retailer Frank And Oak is making a definitive push into the womenswear market, with initial plans to open two new stores dedicated to its women’s collection.

Read the full article about the new stores on Retail Insider.

 

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Filed under Boutiques, Clothing Lines, Fashion, Retail & the Web

Paul Hewitt anchors itself in Canada

European accessories brand Paul Hewitt has secured a bigger presence in the Canadian retail marketplace through a new partnership with Hudson’s Bay Co.

Paul Hewitt, which specializes in nautical-themed watches and bracelets for both men and women, will now offer its products through the TheBay.com.

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Paul Hewitt Phreps Bracelet, US$59.90.

The accessories brand first arrived in Canada approximately a year ago, with distribution through a variety of small watch and jewellery retailers. The new partnership with one of Canada’s most prominent retailers is set to boost the brand’s visibility and sales considerably in the Canadian market.

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Paul Hewitt Sailor Line Watch, US$199.00.

 

Paul Hewitt was founded in Northern Germany in 2009, and the brand aims to reflect that region’s maritime flair through its styles. The company strives to produce timeless pieces that are handmade with high quality materials.

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Paul Hewitt North Bound Bracelet, US$69.90.

The accessories boast simple, minimalist designs, with a variety of colour and material options that allow shoppers to customize items to their individual tastes – a feature that has made the brand popular among millennial consumers.

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Filed under Department Stores & Big Boxes, Fashion, Retail & the Web

A pocket-sized personal shopper

Imagine having a personal shopper who can help you find exactly what you’re looking for without even needing you to describe what you want.

That’s the idea behind See It Buy It, a new app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help consumers find what they’re looking for amongst hundreds of thousands of fashion items.

The app aims to address a key problem: Although mobile technology holds significant e-commerce potential, the process of browsing through multiple websites on a small touch screen to find a specific style of dress or top is frustrating and time-consuming for shoppers.

As AI technology evolves, however, that process could get easier.

See It Buy It, for instance, simplifies the mobile shopping experience by embracing visual search capabilities.

Specifically, consumers can take a photo of something similar to what they’re looking for, and upload it into the app to see relevant matches from thousands of Shopify online merchants.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-8-20-16-pmAlternatively, shoppers can paste a web link into the app to find items similar to something they’ve seen online.

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Shoppers can also use an audio feature within the app to search for an item by verbally describing what they’re looking for, or search for items based on specific shades of colour.

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Products can be filtered by factors such as price, colour, style and material, and as customers begin clicking on items they like, the app taps into AI technology to generate other similar results.

The app lets consumers explore merchandise from a wide range of retailers, ranging from small merchants to mainstream brands, and helps these companies get discovered.

See It Buy It, which was developed by U.S.-based data-science solutions provider nFlate Inc., is currently available in the Android app store in Canada and the U.S., and is set to launch for iOS this month.

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Filed under Fashion, Retail & the Web

Personal meets digital at new Shoes.com store

One of North America’s major online footwear retailers is making the transition from e-commerce to bricks and mortar, with a new Toronto store that combines elements of online shopping and in-store browsing for a modern retail experience.

Shoes.com, which offers a dizzying selection of more than 500 brands through its websites Shoes.com, ShoeMe.ca and OnlineShoes.com, opened its first physical store on Queen Street West this week.

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New Shoes.com store in Toronto, located at 356 Queen Street West.

The move is, in part, a strategy to cater to shoppers who aren’t comfortable shopping online. A large proportion of consumers likely fall into that category when it comes to shopping for shoes, given that sizes tend to vary slightly between brands, and the opportunity to try them on can help shoppers avoid ending up with a pair that doesn’t fit quite right.

By incorporating online shopping stations right into the store, Shoes.com hopes to make new customers more comfortable with the online shopping experience.

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Shoeme.ca website homepage.

The establishment of a physical retail presence also allows the company to develop a stronger connection with its existing customers, according to Jonathan Zhu, assistant store manager, who offered tours of the store during a media event this week.

“Being a really stable online retail space, we want to make that personal connection. We want our customers to see the people behind the shoes and behind the website, and this is our opportunity to do that,” Zhu says. “To be a part of the community is really important to us.”

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Interior of the new Toronto store.

The store is divided into three main sections:

1. the “Home Room”, at the front of the store, aims to reflect the home page of the Shoes.com website, showcasing a variety of different popular styles and brands;

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The Home Room.

2. the “Dressing Room”, in the middle of the store, is set up as a boutique that will put a spotlight on five to six specific brands;

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Maians shoes on display in the Dressing Room.

3. the “Editor’s Room”, at the back of the store, aims to reflect the local community, showcasing merchandise from various designers and entrepreneurs from the city in which the store is located.

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The Editor’s Room.

“More so than a corporate space, you’ll get the feeling of a boutique from us, and the fact that we’re really in tune with our community,” Zhu says.

Each store that the company opens will be unique, with the Editor’s Room being the key differentiating component. In the new Toronto store, for instance, the Editor’s Room will initially feature Toronto-based hat designer Jason Mitchell and his brand Coup de Tete, as well as Armed Jewelry, a local brand founded by designer Desiree Girlato.

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Armed Jewelry on display in the Editor’s Room at the Toronto store.

“Every one of our stores is going to have a different vibe,” Zhu says. “There’s going to be different personalities from the community incorporated into the stores.”

The online shopping terminals will be available for customers to browse and order items not available in store, using the company’s new artificial intelligence-powered shopping tool, called Smart Shopper. The tool helps customers narrow down their search by learning their style preferences and displaying the merchandise that is most relevant to each individual.

Shoes.com plans to open a second store in Vancouver in September, with other locations likely to follow.

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Filed under Boutiques, Fashion, Retail & the Web

Furniture and photography

Furniture retailer Leon’s will be opening the doors of its downtown Toronto location to photographers and art fans this weekend, as it hosts a photography exhibit entitled Toronto CLICKS.

The pop-up gallery, presented by online photography community Streets of Toronto, takes over the Leon’s at the Roundhouse store near the Steamwhistle Brewery on Saturday, Oct. 18th.

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Streets of Toronto is an online photography community with more than 25,000 followers. Contributors use the hashtag #StreetsOfToronto on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to showcase urban photography of landscapes, architecture and public spaces across the city.

Saturday’s exhibit will showcase the work of 50 Toronto photographers, and will mark the launch of StreetsOfToronto.com – the official website for the organization’s upcoming digital and print magazine, as well as a branded line of merchandise.

The 40,000 square-foot furniture store boasts a modern, loft-like atmosphere that’s certainly appropriate for this kind of artistic event.

The exhibit will be open to the public from 1 pm to 5 pm on Saturday. Visitors will be able to purchase photographs, and can enjoy light refreshments as they take in compelling images of this dynamic city.

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Filed under Events, Retail & the Web

Veering out of the virtual world

Online marketplace Etsy appears to be branching out of the e-commerce world and making strides into the face-to-face retail space.

Etsy, an online marketplace where consumers can browse and purchase creative items by artists from around the world, has been experimenting with a variety of projects this year that bring merchandise off of the website and into bricks and mortar stores and markets.

Later this month, Etsy will host a cross-country event called Made in Canada, in which pop-up markets will appear across the country. The one-day event, on Sept. 27th, will take place in more than 20 cities across the country, allowing vendors the opportunity to sell their merchandise to shoppers face-to-face.

In Toronto, the event will take over the atrium of the MaRs Centre, showcasing one-of-a-kind goods from 100 local sellers.

The Made in Canada initiative follows #EtsyRoadTrip – a road show in which a 30-foot custom AirStream trailer brought Etsy merchandise to shoppers Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto during the first week of August.

Beyond these pop-up marketplaces, Etsy has established a longer term strategy around the concept of bringing Etsy merchandise into the real world.

The initiative, called Etsy Wholesale, connects the artists and designers within its marketplace with retailers who are interested in carrying their products. The initiative provides artists with a new channel on which to sell their products, and it gives retailers access to unique new items to feature on their shelves.

Earlier this year, the company announced that Indigo Books & Music Inc. has signed on as one of the participating retailers, and Indigo began selling a selection of Etsy merchandise in certain stores, including the Toronto Eaton Centre location.

Indigo Etsy

The steady growth of online shopping shows no signs of slowing down, and most bricks and mortar retailers have responded to that in recent years by establishing comprehensive websites and e-commerce capabilities alongside the physical stores that they operate.

Against that backdrop, it’s interesting to see some retailers moving in the opposite direction by first establishing themselves online, and then shifting into the physical retail space.

It’s a sign that despite the digital times in which we live, innovation in the retail industry is not a one-way street. Although the internet has opened up a variety of new sales options, marketing practices and alternative ways of connecting with consumers, there continue to be opportunities to innovate in the traditional retail world.

Bricks and mortar stores, it turns out, serve an important function that cannot necessarily be fulfilled online.

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Filed under Events, Retail & the Web

The final chapter for a big retail landmark

In an era where a growing number of consumers get their news online and read books on handheld devices, it should be no surprise that books and other paper products are not generating strong sales.

Still, it somehow seems unexpected when a bookstore as notorious as the World’s Biggest Bookstore – a Toronto landmark that’s been around for more than three decades – closes its doors.

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Photo courtesy of World’s Biggest Bookstore Facebook Page.

By now, most Torontonians are likely accustomed to seeing ‘Going out of Business Sale’ signs in the windows of neighbourhood bookstores. Back in January, for instance, we learned that Book City’s flagship store in the Annex was shutting down after almost 40 years.

It’s pretty clear what’s driving this trend. As bookstores compete with online retailers like Amazon.com, along with a growing array of tablets and e-readers that enable us to consume books in a compact, portable, paperless fashion, people are simply not going to stores to buy books nearly as often as they did in the past.

Meanwhile, many of the bookstores that are still around are rapidly diversifying their product shelves to give shoppers other reasons to come into their stores, as books do not have the draw they once did.

Shoppers who have visited a Indigo store in the past year or two, for example, could be forgiven for mistaking it for a home décor retailer, given the growing selection of candles, throws and vases in those stores. That strategy appears to be paying off: the company has seen double-digit growth in sales of lifestyle products, toys and other non-book items in recent quarters.

In the case of the World’s Biggest Bookstore, it had certainly seen better days. Last time I stopped by, the store looked dated and run down – especially compared to Indigo’s other stores. In that sense, its looming closure is not too surprising.

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Still, the closure of this store seems somehow symbolic, reflecting the end of an era in the world of books. The store was more than a bookshop – it was a landmark. Given our rapidly changing world, however, maybe this landmark was simply no longer a relevant one.

The future of the book retailing business does not look particularly promising. But, for now, Toronto shoppers still have various destinations to buy books – even once the city’s biggest book hub has officially closed shop.

The doors will close for the last time tomorrow, on March 30th. So get your final fix before it’s too late.

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Filed under Retail & the Web, Store Closures