Reinventing Retail by Shaping the Culture
February 12, 2014
Retail is not dead. It’s simply evolving.
Technology is reshaping consumer behavior and, in turn, reshaping retailing. Over the next few years, consumers will experience completely new retail models that deliver unique shopping experiences for their guests.
From the standpoint of retailers, it is clear and irrefutable that the shift to e-Commerce is enormous and irreversible. Whether an industry is dominated by pure-play or multichannel behavior, or how a shopper choses their shopping experience, it would most likely contain at least one digital touch point.
Consumers may be looking at a product in-store, and then do the purchasing online; or they can research product information online and then purchase in-store. Alternately, they might engage in show rooming – pricing a product in one store and, while still there, using a mobile device to purchase same in another store.
However, the problem with most e-Commerce sites is that they are not well branded. Many are too transactional, without differentiation or inspiration. In the communication clutter of the 21st Century retail brands have to stand for something. Most don’t.
Byronesque.com is a dramatic new model of a curated retail concept. It is a purveyor of vintage fashion that engages and edifies its customers. The 2-year old start-up is bold and ambitious. It believes in the power of branding and creativity and in influencing the culture by dissenting from the mainstream of fast fashions into a more individualized expression.
Gill Linton, a former ad executive who launched the start-up, is on a mission to not just create a new supply chain for vintage goods, but to provide an authentic counter-balance to the churn-and-earn values of the global fashion industry. She believes the market for this is enormous and under-served. She says, “We want people to feel like they’re shopping at a carefully merchandised boutique with extraordinary designs by culturally significant designers. This recognition will push people’s imaginations, and break the cycle of commercial mediocrity.”
Byronesque’s collection is gathered from retailers around the world and it is carefully curated to challenge the misconception that vintage fashion is synonymous with kitsch and nostalgia. Byronesque handles the front end of the purchase, while the merchandise is then picked up by customers at retail locations.
Gill plans to launch a subscription services and, when the time is right, a “future-vintage” manufacturing opportunity to diversify beyond “one of a kind” items. The key to this is in the retaining of the integrity of the brand and minimizing the complexities and risks associated with wholesaling. She already has been approached by a number of stores and digital magazines with offers of partnering. But, she says, “It has to be the right fit for us though, something very conceptual. I’d love to partner with Dover Street Market for example.”
What really makes Byronesque special is its emphasis on creativity and the belief that it stands for a movement that shapes the culture. Byronesque has a clear point of view of what it is: a celebration of vintage fashion, and it’s influence on contemporary culture.
It expresses its positioning in a unique way. Along with the e-Commerce side of the business, Byronesque also seeks to explore the sub-cultures around vintage fashion in the form of editorial articles and storytelling. Customers are given the chance to slow down, explore, and enjoy the nuances of fashion and, in the end, hopefully make more considered and personal purchases. It offers a thoughtful alternative to the trend of fast fashion and style copying in the industry.
Its editorial treats vintage fashion with the same type of creativity and depth as contemporary fashion magazines and aspirational boutiques. The editorial is the product of a community of creative people – photographers, designers, art directors, and vintage retailers with a passion for well-made clothes by designers who challenged and pushed people’s imaginations 20 or more years ago.
The editorial is critical to Byronesque’s appeal. “It costs nothing to be smart,” Gill adds, “You just have to have a meaningful point of view, and that’s something the retail industry isn’t really known for.” Many brands struggle to develop content strategies because they have nothing to talk about beyond hawking product. The editorial is Byronesque’s marketing. It’s the stories behind the clothes and accessories it sells that make them special.
Many retail brands tend to move toward the middle and become bland, if not disappearing altogether. Byronesque has a much stronger brand position, arguably because it has elected to be more polarizing and more provocative.
"Reinventing Retail by Shaping the Culture." Avidan Strategies, 2014.
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