To localize stores or not, that is the question for retailers
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current blog article by Aptos.
A recent Aptos forum featured a guided walking tour of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood to explore retailers that have mastered experiential retailing.
The location that stood out to me was Rough Trade, a U.S. incarnation of an iconic British punk music store. Yes, that means racks of vinyl and disaffected staff who take fierce pride in ignoring tour groups. Fair enough.
It also means a music venue in back with a bar, café, bookstore and two “branded” rotating concepts.
Rough Trade could have chosen to distill the essence of NY punk with its Brooklyn store when it arrived in 2013. Instead, it chose to remain true to its founding principles, specifically the London angle.
In contrast, Concrete + Water, a retailer of apparel, accessories and homewares, was founded by two Williamsburg residents looking to celebrate their neighborhood. Their focus is a bridge between Manhattan sensibilities and Brooklyn vibe.
One of the founders expressed skepticism that the Manhattan/Brooklyn blend would translate in other markets because some of the magic the store brings to the community comes from sourcing unique products made by locals. An in-the-field intimacy is required to understand which concepts (and local artisans and designers) will strike the right chord with locals — which means acknowledging what makes each location unique.
Rough Trade or Concrete + Water — which is the path to relevancy in local markets?
Every retailer has to think globally — their Instagram pages alone can ensure them global reach and followers, even with only one store. Starting with store number two, however, retailers must figure out if they are going to be Rough Trade and stick to their core brand promise no matter where they go or, if possibly like Concrete + Water, they are going to bring a formula for neighborhood intimacy to every neighborhood where they open a store.
Retailers like Urban Outfitters and Vans, both with stores in Williamsburg, are already taking their core brand promises across markets and looking to localize it without muddying the waters of their message, but it’s not a given they can do so in a way that resonates.
There’s no right answer here. Which is part of what makes it so interesting.
- Store Innovation Watch: November 2019 – Thinking Retail NYC
- Thinking Retail: Ruminations From A Walk In Williamsburg – Retail Touchpoints
- Webinar: How One Small New York Neighborhood is Bringing Experienctial Retail to Life – Aptos
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: When should a retailer hold true to their brand vs. adapting to the local market? Do you think some localization is always required? If so, how much?