Category Archives: Retail Concepts

Shoppers Drug Mart to open flagship Beauty Boutique in Downtown Vancouver

Shoppers Drug Mart BeautyBoutique Beauty Boutique Vancouver Burrard Street Colin Arber Retail Insider

This article was first posted on Retail Insider.

Sources tell us that Shoppers Drug Mart will open a 4,100 square foot standalone flagship BeautyBoutique in downtown Vancouver, next to the world’s second-largest Victoria’s Secret store. The street-level store will replace retailer ‘Off The Wall’ and will feature a Burrard Street frontage. It will compete with a new, massive Sephora store scheduled to open next winter on the 1000 block of Robson Street, only a couple hundred feet away.

BeautyBoutique layout

Shoppers first debuted its high-end enhanced BeautyBoutique concept last year at Toronto’s Bayview Village Shopping Centre; the second opened in the Toronto EatonCentre this past summer.

Downtown Vancouver has several major cosmetic retail competitors, including Sephora. In addition to its current location at Pacific Centre, Sephora will also be opening one of its largest Canadian locations on Robson Street in the winter of 2014. Other competitors have either been upping their game or preparing for their entry into the Vancouver market. Hudson’s Bay, for example, has been putting much effort into the ongoing revitalization of its Downtown Vancouver flagship store. Its expanded cosmetics floor is close to an acre in size and is now the largest in Western North America. Holt Renfrew continues to show strong cosmetics sales, and future Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenuestores will even further increase competition for Downtown Vancouver’s cosmetics dollar.

With all of these different cosmetics retailers in Downtown Vancouver, it’s hard to say whether BeautyBoutique will create any extra excitement for Vancouver shoppers. Competition will be fierce. Shoppers Drug Mart already has an existing higher-end concept, Murale, though it hasshuttered two of eight locations across Canada. Let’s take a look at the differences between Murale and the new enhanced BeautyBoutiques, and how the new concept might prove successful.

Shoppers 1

For those unfamiliar with Murale, it is an offshoot brand launched in 2008 by Shoppers Drug Mart to move into the high-end cosmetics category. Murale’s brands include Bobbi Brown, Anna Sui, Cargo, Caudalie, Nars and more. These brands make a distinct differentiation between drug store brands such as Maybelline and L’Oréal, but share some crossover brands like Clinique and Stila. The store design is clean and minimal, with a lot of white space, and merchandising isn’t structured in aisles as in the drug store BeautyBoutiques.

Introduced in 2003, the in-store Shoppers Drug Mart BeautyBoutiques occupy prominent real estate, many of which have separate entrances to create a different experience for cosmetics lovers. The South Granville location in Vancouver, in particular, takes up the majority of the second floor of the neighbourhood Shoppers Drug Mart.

Shoppers 2

The new “enhanced” BeautyBoutique takes the in-store concept one step further by bringing in higher end brands (Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, for example) and stepping up the store design, which was inspired by a gift box, and the unravelling of a ribbon to reveal a gift. According to Shoppers, “The ribbon concept can be seen in the elements of the store design including the digital signage wrapped around the boutique and the finishing elements extending over the fixtures to the ceiling.” In a nutshell, it’s a Sephora-like experience.

If one high-end Shoppers beauty concept (Murale) didn’t work out, why would the company repeat similar efforts? One reason could be because a new store like Murale might have required stronger branding support for customers to understand its relationship to Shoppers Drug Mart. On the other hand, the new high-end beauty concept is also located separately from Shoppers, and it was a great idea to leverage off the existing BeautyBoutique name instead of creating a whole new brand like Murale, even though the BeautyBoutique brand seems strong enough on its own. According to Sandra Sanderson, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Shoppers, in a Chain Drug Review article, when consumers heard about BeautyBoutique they already had the impression it was a separate store. We don’t know whether they had done similar research with Murale.

Shoppers 3

There’s also a direct correlation between Shoppers’ BeautyBoutiques and its popular Shoppers Optimum rewards program. This may be a key difference between it and Murale. If consumers didn’t know Murale was a Shoppers concept, for example, there would have been less incentive to shop there. This is especially the case since Sephora has a strong Beauty Insiders loyalty program. Lastly, we’ll have to see whether the new enhanced BeautyBoutique will help drive online sales, as Amazon, Walmart, and Sephora’s e-commerce platforms are highly competitive whereas cosmetics sold at Shoppers Drug Mart concepts rely heavily on foot traffic.

If the enhanced concept proves successful, it might be in Shoppers’ best interest to shutter the Murale chain and concentrate on what’s working. Either way, it will be interesting to see another beauty giant enter Downtown Vancouver’s retail landscape.

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Hointer: Shop for Denim Without Salespeople

One of the highlights of my recent Seattle trip was a quick stop at Hointer, a new store praised by the media that has combined technology with your typical denim shopping experience. It’s not just a “retail concept” in the sense of design and display, but throughout the way you shop, how inventory is managed, and how product is delivered all without the help of a sales person, if you choose not to.

When a friend and I went, we were the only ones in the store and got a really personal (sort of?) experience of the store with the sole sales associate. As you can see in the photos below, there’s a series of instructions as well as a QR code to download an app. After the download, all we had to do was go around the store scanning anything we felt like trying on! When done with our selection, we set up our “shopping cart” through the app and it let us know which change room number to head into.

In the change room, the jeans were dropped from a chute. You also have an area to put aside your keys, wallet, and other valuables – definitely geared towards the male population! We both tried on a pair of lovely Adriano Goldschmied leggings-style jeans and absolutely fell in love with the buttery smooth texture! The tricky thing, my friend noticed, is that the price wasn’t tagged onto the jeans, as you would traditionally find. The price was on the app but if you head in the change room with more than 2 styles it’s hard to keep track. A buyer behaviour strategy? Perhaps.

Was it people who folded the jeans once we dropped the “no’s” down the other chute? I definitely thought I heard shuffling. Or was it a series of robot-like technology down there? My friend was so sure she heard robotic whizzing sounds. We tried asking the associate after about the inventory “Microwarehouse” inventory system, and he joking said to us we were close – it was either elves or a basketball team throwing the jeans back in order.

I thought this was a beautiful application of technology to the retail experience, especially for tech geeks, but also a transformative operation for the everyday shopper. The third location of Hointer recently opened at Pacific Place Mall in downtown Seattle. Be sure to stop by on your next cross-border trip!

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Holt’s to Launch Off-Priced Retail Concept “hr2”

Diffusion lines gained a lot of momentum especially during the first wave of the financial crisis circa 2008. Holt Renfrew is not putting out another mid-priced designer line to attract shoppers. Rather, they’re putting out a full-on off-priced retail concept – similar to Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off Fifth, Barney’s CO-OP, etc.

According to the Huffington Post, they’ll be offering diffusion lines from the same brands carried at Holt’s. And the first hr2 store will open in Montreal sometime next year, some 25,000 to 30,000 sq ft smaller than the regular Holt’s (which clocks in at 60,000 to 80,000 sq ft).

I know this is part of survival in business, to “augment” your brand as Harvard Business School marketing professor Youngme Moon will call it. But is there really a point to keep delivering off-priced retail? Ok, so it might be a good idea to move your chess pieces to fend off Nordstrom and The Bay. And yes, off-priced retailing is a large and growing segment of the fashion business. But having just finished reading “Different,” is this Holt’s project different enough to be top of mind for consumers? Or is this the future of our retail scene – high end department stores diffusing (Holt’s), while mid-priced department stores upscaling (The Bay), while the ones who don’t keep up just sink (Sears)?

What it does have going for them is that Canadians are still relatively untouched by this mid-market tier, which is why we all flock to the States to get our fix of cheap designer goodies. Your thoughts?

Photo sourced from: Ottawa Citizen

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Retail 2.0: Online Inventory & In-Store Showroom


The world is a funny funny place, and in my case it’s the fashion and retail worlds. I met up with Concerto Marketing‘s Nick Black, VP of Strategic Insights, at a local JJ Bean. He shared with me his thoughts of where the next wave of retail is headed. He’s studied technology companies and one of his main findings is that technology must bridge the gap between the facelessness of its interactions and give it a human touch.

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