Comic-Con can teach retailers a lot about curation
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.
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.
- Masks, Activations and Minions: The Sights and Sounds of Comic-Con 2022 – Times of San Diego
- Donut Bar San Diego
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?