Comic-Con can teach retailers a lot about curation

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/alancrosthwaite
Aug 02, 2022

Comic-Con International returned to downtown San Diego from July 21 to 24 after the pandemic necessitated a two-year hiatus. Held at the convention center as well as venues throughout the city, the pop culture conference featured panels, exhibits, collectible shops and special events that were sponsored by entertainment brands and franchises.

The arrival of 130,000 visitors is an opportunity and a challenge for San Diego’s consumer-facing businesses.

Attendees are fervent fans and laser-focused on acquiring new content, collectibles and experiences from their favorite brands, as opposed to patronizing local retailers and restaurants.

Smart local merchants took the time to understand the Comic-Con cohort’s motivations and created targeted strategies, offers and operations to deliver curated products and services to meet convention-goers’ needs. This included:

  • Pop-ups and partnerships, such as with themed, curated confections created by local icon Donut Bar and Pendry Hotel;
  • Popular breakfast spots developed grab-and-go items and designated pickup areas as well as expanded opening hours to include afternoon and evening dayparts; 
  • Subway expanded operations to 24 hours to attract early risers that line up to get into prime events as well as late-nighters who need a snack after parties;  
  • Nearly all restaurants crafted themed items and limited menus to ensure service, quality and convenience;
  • Ace Hardware stocked up on mailing tubes and packaging supplies to help attendees get their prized possessions wrapped and safely transported;
  • UPS stores extended hours and staff to help attendees and exhibitors mail belongings;
  • Parking, always in short supply, was available from local businesses and hotels that had valets, limo services and security on hand for attendees, visitors and celebrities.

Local retailers had to balance regular patrons, staff and the influx of visitors. Some, like Ace Hardware, had staff available to service the steady stream of regulars, using themed signage and easy-to-grab displays of a handful of key items to serve visitors.

Comic-Con can teach retailers a lot about curation
Photos: Richard Schulte/Cool San Diego Sights

Others, like a local holistic health provider, closed during the event to spare staff and customers the traffic snarls and jams. They rented out their parking lot to visitors to gain revenue.

Big events are a great reminder for retailers to continually assess the landscape and impact on operations when making business decisions.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What lessons can we derive from the way local merchants adjusted their curation and customer service for Comic-Con attendees? What are the keys to effective product curation at retail?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"This is the type of thinking we should see year-round from brands."
"When it comes to in-store events and promotions, independent retailers are light years ahead of corporate retail."
"Merchants just let their imaginations go and while some of it was trite or old, other efforts attempted to go where no other retailer had gone before…"

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7 Comments on "Comic-Con can teach retailers a lot about curation"


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Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

All of these examples prove that retailers can cater to a specific customer and creatively derive value for them. This is the type of thinking we should see year-round from brands.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust
Richard Hernandez
Merchant Director
4 months 6 days ago

A large amount of retailers joined in to create additional attachment sales related to it. The sales were successful and welcome. Good for them.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

When it comes to in-store events and promotions, independent retailers are light years ahead of corporate retail.

Indies are continually on the hunt for inspiration from events happening outside of their stores, that will benefit their stores. They have a minimum of 12 times each year to plan events that attract and thrill shoppers, and they know a bland 20 percent off sale, or another coupon, isn’t going to cut it.

ComicCon, and all the smaller cons that happen across the country, offer thousands of ideas to curate for events. We tell our indie clients to look for ideas everywhere because great ideas ARE everywhere. It’s important to step out of your comfort zone and step out of your industry for inspiration. There are gazillions of opportunities out there.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Independent retailers and restauranteurs were stars! They really embraced the vibe, and visitors and locals alike rewarded them with sales and high-fives!

Ron Margulis
BrainTrust

I’ve been in San Diego when Comic-Con has been underway four times and even though I never experienced the actual convention, I did witness how local merchants tried (and sometimes succeeded) to create genuine customer engagement. Of course, the Gaslamp Quarter was chock packed with vendors selling everything from costumes to weapons (fake I hope), but one of the more interesting retail happenings was at Petco Field, where the Padres play. There were gimmicks at the food stands intended to entice Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, etc. attendees, but there was also some cross-merchandising with the Padres memorabilia at the team shops. Even the program and score card gave a wink to the other fans in town for the week. Merchants just let their imaginations go and while some of it was trite or old, other efforts attempted to go where no other retailer had gone before…

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Great opportunity for retailers to take advantage of an opportunistic market. Well done!

Roland Gossage
BrainTrust
3 months 29 days ago

Personalized and consistent experiences tailored to Comic-Con attendees across all customer touchpoints is the key to creating engaging experiences and a supportive community-like feeling.

Effective product curation is based on the quality of the products being presented versus a plethora of product choices. Personalized product curation that is tailored to a specific event like Comic-Con combined with a superb online search and recommendations experience will boost engagement and conversions. Product discovery solutions that are powered by advanced machine learning models elevate the product curation experience to serve up hyper-personalized results tailored to each individual shopper.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"This is the type of thinking we should see year-round from brands."
"When it comes to in-store events and promotions, independent retailers are light years ahead of corporate retail."
"Merchants just let their imaginations go and while some of it was trite or old, other efforts attempted to go where no other retailer had gone before…"

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