Tag Archives: Online shopping

Bold Toronto-Based Jewellery Line ‘Musesa’ Expands Retail Distribution

Musesa

Monica Frangulea, the designer behind the Toronto-based fine jewellery line Musesa, strives to make a statement with the jewellery she creates.

Read the full profile of Frangulea and her plans to expand retail distribution for her jewellery line on Retail Insider.

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Filed under Boutiques, Fashion, Retail & the Web

New E-commerce Brand Grayes Caters to Working Women

Grayes

A new Toronto-based e-commerce retailer, called Grayes, is on a mission to provide women with professional clothing that has personality, while supporting Canadian manufacturing.

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

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Filed under Clothing Lines, 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

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

Shopping around the clock

Busy GTA shoppers now have more time to get their retail fix.

Several Toronto-area shopping centres have recently extended their hours of operation, particularly on weekends, allowing shoppers to keep browsing and buying from their favourite stores well into the evenings.

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Sherway Gardens and Fairview Mall recently announced that they are now open from 9:30 am to 9 pm on Saturdays, and the Toronto Eaton Centre is open from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm.

And on Sundays – a day when laws used to prohibit retailers from opening at all – the Eaton Centre is now open a full nine hours, from 10 am to 7 pm, while Fairview and Sherway are open from 11 am to 7 pm and 11 am to 6 pm, respectively.

I can still recall when most stores were open a standard five hours on Sundays – noon to 5 pm.

These malls, all owned by The Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd., are likely changing their hours in an effort to compete with the growing popularity of e-commerce. Since customers can now do much of their shopping from the comfort of their home or office – anytime that’s convenient for them – they’ve become accustomed to service that caters to their schedule, and not the other way around.

In order to remain relevant in this rapidly changing environment, bricks and mortar retailers must take steps to meet customers’ rapidly evolving expectations, such as staying open longer.

As a former retail worker, however, I feel for the sales associates, store managers and other staff members who are required to work these new hours.

Although some may appreciate the bigger paycheques that come with extra hours on the clock, the job is one that can already be very tiring, involving seemingly endless hours on your feet. Tacking a couple extra hours onto the end of a shift may not seem like a big deal, but after several hours in heels, the minutes tend to crawl by at a snail’s pace.

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And, even though 9 pm may seem like a reasonable time for a store to close its doors, few retail staff members get to leave at that time. Cleaning the store, counting the till and getting things ready for the next day can easily take an hour, and on evenings when new merchandise needs to go out on the floor, workers can be stuck at a store until the early hours of the morning.

After a long week of work, that’s hardly an ideal way to spend a Saturday night.

Since it’s standard for retailers to temporarily extend their hours during the busy Christmas season, it’s possible that these workers could face even longer hours come November and December.

After that, it will be interesting to see whether these retail hubs stick with their new extended hours of operation, or revert to their old ones. If the hours pay off in the form of more sales, shop keepers will likely need to get used to their new schedules.

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Filed under Retail & the Web, Shopping Hubs