August 12, 2010

Overcoming Obstacles Through Creative Strategies

To some, the recession may be a distant memory of the past, but to most retailers, the effects of it's sting remains painfully present. As unemployment is still high, house values are low, and banks continue to be less reluctant to lend to consumers, the majority of people are shopping with caution.

And while many retailers in return have slashed their prices for the bargain hungry, a few have risen above the norm and put their creativity at the forefront of their business strategies to bring back their business. Today we highlight three brands that have taken an unordinary approach in response to today's market and show that you don't always need to resort to lower prices in order to stay afloat.

image via: NY Times
1. Luxottica 
The $6.6 billion Italian-based eyewear company with retail outlets including Sunglass Hut and LensCrafters experiments with a concept store that makes eyewear shopping a full on event. Their first store Eye Hub opened three weeks ago in Hawthorne, Australia with hopes of building ten to fifteen more in the United States, China, and Britain, over the next three years.

Costing two to three times as much as a regular LensCrafters store in the US, the Eye Hub functions beyond a traditional retail store and is more like a live research and development lab. Customers are first greeted by the concierge who then gives a short lesson about the store from a Web home page. From there, they are asked how they would like to interact with the store. From the initial entrance at the store to the final purchase, everything is all about having a personal experience.

image via: NY Times

For those who are looking for sporty eyewear, there are wind machines, treadmills, and machines that stimulate glare on snow or water so customers can actually test out the products in specific conditions. There are also 41 touch screens that function as both mirrors and cameras so people can not only just see how they look in photos, but also send them out to Facebook or other websites to ask for a friend's advice before making the final purchase.

Similar to the Apple stores, the Eye Hub has something like the Genius Bar where a section is designated as a center for eye problems and prescriptions. There are also salespeople walking around the store who can make your final transactions so you don't necessarily need to wait in line at a cash register to make a purchase.

Experimenting with new ideas during today's economic state is rare, making Luxottica stand out against the crowd. But will this new shop encourage customers to buy a product and not just visit for the experience? Only time will tell. (source: NY Times)

photo via: Financial Times

2. Hermès
Famed for its Kelly and Birkin bags, the Hermès brand takes an unusual move with a launch of a new brand in China in September. Shang Xia, translated as "up and down" in English, would remain completely separate from the main Hermès line and would be branded as completely Chinese.
Florian Craen, the Hermès managing director in North Asia, describes, "it is developed in China with the Chinese team, based on Chinese craftsmanship and broadly made in China."

This is an interesting approach to getting into the Chinese market. According to Shaun Rein of China Market Research group in Shanghai, most Chinese consumers do not want made-for-China products. Studies have shown that shoes, handbags, and jewellery that are of foreign design sell much better than local market products. Perhaps for these reasons, Shang Xia will start by selling home products such as tableware and furniture with a traditional Chinese theme. Whether or not they will expand to fashion remains unknown. The growth of the company will be determined by how it sells in the market. (source:

3. Nike+
With the technological innovations of today, many brands have began interacting more with the web to promote new marketing campaigns and advertisements. Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media have been the biggest influencers of change for brands today. However, Nike has taken this idea to a whole new level with Nike+, integrating digital technology into their actual products. Nike+ uses digital sensors integrated into running shoes to measure, analyze, and share performance data. It also has a program for iPods made especially for runners who like to listen to music during their workout. Since its launch, it has sold 2.5 million Nike+ kits. Not only has this been a financial asset to Nike, but has created a deeper relationship between its brand and their consumers.

video via: YouTube

More recently, at the start of the last World Cup, Nike also launched a new football boot called the Mercurial Vapor SuperFly II. It came with an access code for Nike Soccer+, a digital coaching program available via web or any smart phone. Players can log in and watch instructions given by world-class players and coaches. As the Nike Soccer general manager states, "you are not just buying a boot, you are buying a total game improvement package." Nike represents the new, modern product of today. The brand is no longer just about the product, but the total experience, and incorporating the experience into a wider community. Nike is already way ahead of the game and their success is a lesson for all brands seeking ways to adapt to the changing times. (source: Business of Fashion)

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