Fall 2015
Legendary Stationery Moleskine Expands into Specialty Retail

This lifestyle retailer uses specialty retail to reach new customers and stay connected to brand loyalists.

Dynamic retailers with a strong brick-and-mortar and online presence are increasingly using specialty retail as one arm of their corporate sales and marketing strategies. L.L.Bean, Reebok and Amazon are but a few examples of large, name-brand retailers who have established a presence in the common area, seasonal or otherwise.

moleskine_4Moleskine, the popular stationery company headquartered in Milan, Italy, that sells a variety of “nomadic” objects—from notebooks and journals, planners, office supplies and more—is one of the newer mega-retailers to test the waters of specialty retail. Its latest location in the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota, Florida, is part of the company’s global expansion strategy.

Historically, Moleskine has sought to first test store concepts to assess potential before rollout on a wider scale. The focus going forward in 2015 for the multi-category and multi-channel brand will come both from the expansion of product offering and from the increase in brand accessibility in all markets—both through direct retail and indirect channels. In 2014 alone, Moleskine opened 22 new stores and plans to increase its global footprint—taking the number of directly operated stores to more than 70 by 2016. “We have all the right ingredients in place to make continued progress: a strong brand, a strong customer affinity and an innovative and exciting range,” a company spokesperson said. “The stores have been a real success and we believe there is a lot of potential for growth given the global nature of the brand.”

Sarasota strategy

The University Town Center location sells a variety of Moleskine products from the company’s Paper, WTR (Writing, Traveling and Reading) and Hybrid collections (products bridging the analog and digital worlds).

As for how Moleskine chooses the locations it runs with, the company spokesperson pointed out that, “As a brand, we have always sought to appeal to ‘creative nomads’ and, as such, we aim to carefully consider how best to appeal to this target audience whenever we consider potential locations.” The University Town Center location, in a cultural and metropolitan hub, fulfills Moleskine’s mission of “Expanding knowledge, creativity and individual expression.”

As for future growth plans, “We want to expand our retail perimeter by opening in vibrant historical and cultural hubs such as train stations and airports, city centers and urban shopping malls. These locations reflect the Moleskine brand, allowing a platform for creativity and cultural exploration,” the spokesperson said.

Marketing message?

While retailers like Amazon—and even celebrities like comedian/actor Gabriel Iglesias—have used specialty retail stores as marketing outlets designed to promote their presence over the holidays or improve brand awareness, the rise of online retail has demonstrated that these specialty retail outlets can also serve as a strong channel for sales.

The stores are a vehicle for Moleskine’s sustainable and profitable future growth. They also have proven to be a high-performing part of the company’s distribution model. Moleskine has recognized that brand awareness is a byproduct of this expansion.

“Due to the continued growth of e-commerce, retail has become a much more targeted, precise business as compared to the days where big companies invested millions of dollars in fixed costs to build multiple sites to capture market share,” says James O’ Neill, CEO of JBC & Associates in Toledo, Ohio, a company that provides brands with quick go-to-market blueprints that launch year-round, or seasonal direct-to-consumer retail programs allowing access to prime locations. Moleskine’s specialty retail expansion model fits the bill well. “Retailers can capitalize on peak customer traffic times in shopping centers on a variable cost basis, while utilizing lower-cost direct response tools for off-peak sales activity,” O’Neill points out, “The use of kiosks, mall carts and pop-up stores on a monthly basis to capture crucial sales in peak times is a tool that should be in every retail executive teams tool belt,” he says.

Deborah Georgetti-Piro, President at Georgetti-Piro & Associates, LLC, a specialty retail industry veteran, agreed. She pointed out that customer interaction and the fact that specialty retail outlets can be crucibles to test new concepts are the key reasons companies like Moleskine are exploring the common area.

From a marketing point of view, Moleskine is expected to continue to create interesting stories and initiatives for its audience. “We believe that the best way to spread the word of our tools is through sharing our values and how they can fulfill the needs of our public,” Moleskine’s spokesperson said. “Our marketing strategies encompass this philosophy and we seek to promote collaboration in both our online and in-store campaigns.”

Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor specializing in retail and the book publishing industry. Learn more at wordcumulus.wordpress.com.
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