Just like fashion styles, the vocabulary of retail is constantly changing!
Some consider the term “curated retail” a new concept but curation has existed for a long time.
The term refers to retailers deploying a strategy to minimize the number of choices a customer must make and ensure that their product lines are unique and highly desirable to their target shoppers.
Retail experts believe curated retail is here to stay! Craig Patterson, editor-in-chief of Retail Insider, states, “Curated retail involves a narrower product focus, which may lead to personalization and increased brand relevancy.”
The idea of curated retail is not new, but, more recently, we are seeing a higher focus on it. Perhaps that is why he say, “Because consumers demand curated and personalized offerings and competition is so great, and offerings so broad, retailers are seeing an opportunity to sell ‘better’ with ‘less’.”
Several smaller Canadian retailers have used curating as a marketing strategy to differentiate their businesses alongside the big names. These include Kanye West and big retailers like Nordstrom, who are doing curated pop-up shops.
Curated Artisanal Products
“Curated retail is defined as having a deep point of view even if it means we can’t be all things to all people.” said Jen Lee Koss, a Canadian retailer and co-founder of BRIKA.
BRIKA was co-founded by Koss and Kena Paranjape. They felt the need to focus on talented artisans and designers who were being lost in the noise.
The duo recognized that a core customer is inherently creative and craves unique goods. Their business model began as an online site and has evolved to physical retail. Moreover, the co-founders hand-select artisans and makers from North America for their uniqueness and commitment to quality, ethical business and building a purposeful contribution within their community.
These artisans benefit from an easy platform to sell their goods online. Their model requires no inventory as each maker ships directly from their studios.
BRIKA launched at the end of 2012 with five artisans, and today, they have over 400 within their curated community. More recently, Koss and Paranjape have opened permanent stores and pop-up shops in Toronto. The BRIKA online business has benefited by having physical stores.
“We most certainly see a correlation between our stores and an increase in online sales in the same geography.” Koss said. BRIKA has also sold merchandise through Hudson Bay and Holt Renfrew department stores.
Koss wants to see this distribution platform grow. Moreover, she explained that combining an online presence and physical stores enables them to reach a wider audience. As such, they will be opening more brick-and-mortar locations worldwide. One achievement that the BRIKA team is most proud of was opening their first stand-alone location.
BRIKA shares some similarities with Etsy, including some of their makers utilize both online platforms. BRIKA claims they are more highly selective than Etsy. Interestingly, both companies have ventured into having real storefront exposure.
Another Canadian retailer, Smoke + Ash, is curating its offerings to bring design-centered contemporary fashion to Toronto at affordable prices. Smoke + Ash has brought together a carefully chosen collection of goods and lifestyle products and displays them in a way that tells a story. Their labels are underrepresented in Toronto.
Scented candles, body oil and a cozy sweater are merchandised together to tell a story about comfort and relaxation.
“At Smoke + Ash, every item is carefully considered and chosen for a reason. We have our aesthetic and point-of-view, and we communicate that through every store item, store design, and visual display.” says Jaya Kahlon, owner and curator.
Kahlon knows precisely who her customer is and understands what she likes as a fashion-forward, on-trend consumer.
Smoke + Ash is a brick-and-mortar store that began as a six-month pop-up shop and morphed into a permanent location after four years. Their online sales represent less than 10% of their business, but they are growing.
Kahlon believes their physical location helps drive brand awareness and online sales. So today they are expanding their presence online as well. Kahlon says the physical store makes communicating constantly with their desired customer easy.
Additionally, they will be debuting digital styling tools that customers can use to discover how to style their clothes and put together outfits. “I love bringing new ideas to life,” says Kahlon and, “As a small company, we have to find innovative and creative ways to solve problems and grow our business.“
Gillian Johnson was itching to tap into her creativity. After 10 years and two different retail and wholesale accessories businesses, she curated a jewelry line that expresses her aesthetics, inspiration and values.
Hawkley, a Toronto-based jewelry brand, was born with a very modern and rustic style. Johnson is drawn to the artisanal and tribal crafts and techniques of regions worldwide.
Her jewelry exhibits techniques from South East Asia, North Africa and the Southwestern United States. Each piece is hand-crafted, emphasizing wax casting, metalsmithing and beading techniques. Also, Johnson has reignited the passion for handmade goods that evoke the human touch.
“To me, curating retail means scaling down on a selection while narrowing in on your customer’s tastes.” said Johnson. Hawkley is sold both online and through wholesale channels.
Johnson enjoys experimenting with different retail methods, from collaborations, pop-ups and private events that bring more meaningful interactions to its customers.
She has recently launched a creative space in Toronto for the design and entrepreneurial community called Assembly. Moreover, she hopes to bring together brands and local entrepreneurs and host workshops that teach and expand the practices and disciplines that inspire artistry.
With the growth of curated retail shopping experiences both online and through physical retail, consumers will soon be able to find curated retail stores that match their specific preferences. Also for brands, curated retail represents an opportunity to showcase highly edited lines of products or services to meet the marketplace’s needs better.