At the top of my holiday reading heap was the December/January issue of Monocle (the style-slash-politics-slash-travel-slash-business magazine by Wallpaper’s founding lifestyle guru Tyler Brûlé) and a feature on a quintet of international department stores and their perfected approaches to retailing. Seoul, Korea’s Lotte, London, England’s Bamford, Taipei’s Eslite, Tokyo’s Marui and Helsinki’s Stockmann are highlighted for their exceptional service, product focus and comprehensive selection of local and international brands. Bamford, in particular, is celebrated for authentically combining a sense of British tradition with modern gadgets and eco conscious lifestyle products.
The New York Times’ fashion critic Cathy Horyn has the topic of what makes a great store on her mind too, recently putting the call out to her On the Runway blog readers for their picks of the Big Apple’s best shop spots. Horyn divides the current cutting edge shopping concepts into two categories, “the curatorial store (I suppose that’s the Colette type) and the austerity store (very Japanese, just concentrating on a few pieces).”
Here in Toronto, the question was put to me by Youthography marketer Naomi Olsen who’s studying new store schemes and wondered if I’d noticed any retailers stepping outside big box or boutique standards?
If I’m judging by Horyn’s criteria, Toronto has a few options. Jason MacIsaac’s Ministry of the Interior is unquestionably curated with modern furniture and houseware discoveries and, on the fashion front, Lileo, with its streetwear complimenting selection of books and designer toys, fits the trend.
UPC Boutique and Noir in Yorkville make austere statements though they’re definitely not as bare as minimal options abroad. Austere is a hard thing for a notoriously chummy city like Toronto to pull off.
Olsen mentions her own novel finds like the skate park at the West 49 store in Burlington or the move towards bring-your-own-bag discounts at places like Lululemon.
But what intrigues me more than gift with purchase gimmicks and theme park retail environments are new approaches to service. We’re becoming increasingly comfortable with shopping online so we’re demanding more incentives to step away from the keyboard and keep shopping social.
Parkdale’s Common Cloth boutique might be on to a new option. Designers Melanie Talbot and Kristina Bozzo are closing to the public, cutting out wholesaling and offering private clients the opportunity to play buyer and pick pieces in the fabrics they want. A car service will whisk customers to their showroom where they’ll be able to look through entire fall, holiday, spring and summer collections and place orders. Think of it as made-to-order on the fashion industry’s timetable.