Stores

November 7 2008




We love great retail. We want to find it; we use it as therapy, as entertainment, as an escape, as fantasy. Yet great retail stores are much scarcer than mediocre stores. We all can list many stores that underwhelm us, yet we visit them daily. Mostly, because we must. Just think of your run-of-the mill grocery store, convenience store, drug store, gas station, department store, big box.

Even the newest “concept” versions of many brands are bland, boring and basic; designed for the retailer and its suppliers, not the consumer. They are designed and re-designed without challenging old retail “truths,” and so the result is the same old. 



We as consumers shop for two broad reasons: Either because we must, or because want to. We have resigned to the fact that when we shop for items we must buy – gasoline, medicine, food – the stores will not look great. And yet, we’d most likely prefer shopping at a gas station that isn’t scary, dirty, neon-lit and dull, or in a drug store that doesn’t look like a warehouse for the most powerful brands. Even in today’s multi-channel environment where consumers can stay at home and shop for necessities online, many retailers still assume that consumers don’t notice or care.



Mass-appeal stores –including gas stations, grocery, convenience and department stores – have a much wider target audience than a niche boutique, and the two groups’ challenges are different, but a consumer who shops for food does not suddenly forget his or her experience in a niche shop. The expectations, or at least the knowledge of a great experience goes everywhere with the consumer.



As business people, and as consumers, we know that retail today is more challenging and complicated than ever. Consumers shop less and demand more from each experience. They spend less and demand more value. In all categories and at all price levels, consumers look for value in the end, but value is not the same as cheap.

Value is defined by the consumer as: Is it really worth my time, attention, money? The joy, prestige and pleasure produced by a newly acquired tech-toy or pair of shoes – expensive as they may be – make them worth the price to the consumer. And if the shopping experience was awesome, we have something more to tell our friends.



Regardless of segment or even price, today’s power retail is all about authenticity, consistency and experience. Retailers must be nimble and adaptable, and evolve with consumers’ tastes and needs. Consumers can find everything online, so the in-store experience must give them something that is much, much better. Stores must be relevant, engaging, fresh. They must offer an emotional connection, interaction, excitement.



As long as our list of underwhelming stores may be, we all know some wonderful stores we’ve experienced. If you talk about your list of such favorites, most likely you will end up telling a story. It will be about the experience in the store: The way it looks, smells or feels. It will be about the staff behavior, the music, the selection, the philosophy, the brands, the changes, the activities. It has been a memorable experience in a good way. It has made an impression. You were — and are – emotionally engaged.



Whether the store is specialized in high-end fashion, cool skateboards, discount foods, knock-down furniture or exclusive art books, to the customer the overall honesty of the offering is what will bring us back. Will the components match? Is it all on the same page? Is it authentic? Can we trust them to deliver the same or more again? Today’s customer can spot an empty shell and a fake, fluffy concept easily, and when the novelty of such “concepts” wears off, the customer has no reason to return.



A retail store is not a concept, neither is it a brand. It is just one channel, one way of expressing whatever it is the consumer understands the promise to be, whatever the consumer feels the experience is going to add to his or her life. Branding, marketing, store design, merchandise selection, staff behavior, the windows, the change rooms, the website, the wrapping paper and bags, plus a million other details make up that promise, and every store visit either renews or shatters the trust.



Today, with word-of-mouth sped up by social media, bad news travels faster than ever. That can be a serious challenge, because a single bad experience can blow up and become headline news.



But good news travels faster than ever as well, and that poses another challenge to retailers. More often than not, the customer knows more about the brand, the products, and most important, the competition, than the staff. People do not need to travel the world to know about the latest, the newest, the coolest, and the best. Customers have seen more exciting stores, more creative marketing and more fun products than perhaps the typical store staff or even the managers. And if the customer is more enthusiastic and knowledgeable than the sales person, then the customer will not receive “knowledgeable service” no matter what the promotions promise.



Quoting directly from our “Power of the Box” post, we can refer to retail anthropologist Paco Underhill (author of Why we buy and Call of the mall ) and his studies and surveys on shelf impact, shopping behavior and consumer psychology. They all show that it matters what the box looks like, what it makes us feel – even when we say it doesn’t. A retail store is that box.



Also in the same post, we referred to Buyology – Truth and Lies about Why We Buy, a book by Martin Lindstrom who is now on Time magazine’s list of world’s 100 most influential people. Buyology covers the results of Lindstrom's $7-million study that attempted to figure out what really makes us vote with our wallets. The over-arching revelation – if it is indeed a revelation – is that, more often than not, we as consumers do not know why we buy. We do not know what actually affects us when we make a buying decision. But mostly it is about emotions.



When we encounter a fantastic retail store today – a store that we feel is worthy of our attention, time and money – we are really seeing a minor miracle and a major business feat. We should tell the world about it and we should demand more of it. Retailing is an extremely complicated and well-researched business, yet succeeding in it is still perhaps closer to magic than anything else. - Tuija Seipell



Knowing what’s hot is what The Cool Hunter is all about. The Cool Hunter Platinum team can help help give your new product or service the elusive C-factor — whether it’s a lifestyle product or techno-gadget, a new store or access to our little black book of collaborators to assemble the right team of creatives to realise the on-going vision of the brand.


 

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Platinum

November 3 2008




INNOVATION NATION brought to you by The Cool Hunter Platinum
Tracking Innovation so your brand or business stays in the know

Annual Subscription (USD)$500

With close to a million readers each month, The Cool Hunter has become a global authority on cool and innovation. But what you see on the site is only a small sample of our research.

We've been saving the rest for our professional readers who can now access this vast pool of knowledge for the very first time via our new weekly Innovation Reports. Covering trends in product design, marketing, advertising, retail, social trends and consumer thinking, INNOVATION NATION brought to you by The Cool Hunter Platinum allows your business to stay ahead of the innovation eight-ball.

In a globalized 24/7 world staying "in the know" is crucial. Consumers are educating themselves and influencing each other at break-neck speed.

They know more and expect more, presenting a challenge to brands to come up with creative ways of attracting and holding their attention. Much of modern business is about staying ahead of this and keeping abreast of how the innovators are responding.

Which is where INNOVATION NATION Weekly reports come in. Our briefings bring the best of The Cool Hunter to your business, so innovation doesn't just become part of your company's internal program - but part of its manifesto and culture.

This is a paid service launching soon. Annual subscription (48 editions) costs (USD)$500. To register your interest contact [email protected]This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

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Ads

November 2 2008



It's just days away from one of the most anticipated US federal elections in history and both sides are plowing into spin overdrive. Which is why we love this amazing original advertisement that has succeeded in doing what most politicians don't  - cut through the crap in a single succinct moment.

Created by creative director - Tor Myhren from Grey NYC,  the posters slice through the race issue between candidates - acknowledging that much of this campaign has predictably but stupidly been re-cast as a battle between black and white. Myhren's powerful imagery rightly implies that this is all just distraction, seeking to refocus our attention onto what really matters - the issues.

Even before the results are in, the posters have become collectors items, with New Yorkers unable to help themselves from swiping them off the streets.  - Lisa Evans


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Lifestyle

November 2 2008



The only thing worse than being trapped in a sleeping bag, is needing to go to the toilet in one. Well cast those fears aside as the new Selk'bag is here. This sleeping bag is more like a body bag ( not the corpse ones ). It's padded and shaped to the human form and allows free movement both in and out of sleep, where traditional sleeping bags don't.

The various ties and adjustment belts allow for a very snug fit which keeps the warmth in and gives you further control when moving about. Selk'bag is padded with a number of layered inserts which provide maximum comfort when lying on even the hardest surfaces. Best of all , even the ugliest camper can look positively cute once wrapped in the Selk'bag. Snug, Smart, freeing! Now selling online - Lisa Evans

Fashion

October 30 2008



Irony -  check.  Careful, considered design — check.  Desirable product with cache — most definitely check. Natalia Brilli has managed to create a signature that is immediately identifiable with her blend of taking the every day and creating a finished product that appears as if dipped into leather. A laptop bag becomes a functional leather laptop case that has the keyboard carved out in the leather, a wallet has the credit cards and coins moulded onto the zip front cover, a pair of sunglasses are embossed into the leather sunglass case. At once quirky and humorous but undeniably cool and chic, the latest Men’s 09 Collection is no exception to this designers range and ability.  — Kate Vandermeer






Bars

October 29 2008



Renowned English interior designer Tom Dixon is behind Paramount, London's hottest new venue located on top of city landmark Centre Point tower. The bar's aesthetic is a blend 60s retro and futurism, articulated through the use of hard-edged materials like concrete and stone to create a kind of space-ship meets super-club. The star of course, is the spectacular view, which is only enhanced by Dixon's clean, modern interior. 



Anyone hoping to pay a visit to Paramount better get to work on their "applications" for membership, a process which, rather frightfully, mirrors a job application. Aspiring members must be "assed" by a panel including English actor Stephen Fry. We're not generally fans of such pretense but thanks to Dixon, it looks like all of the hoopla may actually be worth it. Start typing. - Lisa Evans



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News

October 20 2008




The web's most read culture, architecture and design site will soon launch in early 09, The Cool Hunter Living, an uber-luxe real estate listings portal which connects vendors to a discerning, hard-to-reach market of high-income architecture and design aficionados.

Since its inception in 2004, thecoolhunter.net has amassed a global readership consisting of close to 1 million unique visitors a month who visit the site for the absolute latest in innovation and inspiration in all disciplines of design - from the most awe-inspiring architecture to the coolest new artists and products. 

The site's subscriber list reads like a who's-who of the international design, media, fashion, architecture and publishing industries. For the first time, The Cool Hunter Living gives vendors access to this high end market. The site also offers vendors an unparalleled opportunity to "position" their properties amongst the best and most luxurious in the world.



Also, in 09, we'll launch The Cool Hunter Hotel booking service, an online store, global job lists, Cool Hunter TV, magazine, retail stores and some major offline events. We’re eager to see our efforts translated into major global markets such as India, China, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Brazil and more. STAY TUNED!

New site designed by TCH Design

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Music

October 18 2008

Much like designers, musicians are continually swinging through history, cherry-picking the best bits from long-forgotten eras and reinterpreting them with a modern slant. Recently, we’ve trudged through nostalgic New Order clones and the post-post-punk boom with bands like Interpol and Editors, but now it would seem that the much maligned genre of disco is coming back. So break out the bellbottoms because disco is about to be cool again.



FAN DEATH

Fan Death are the princesses of new-disco strut. Their stunning debut single, Veronica’s Veil, sounds like it was recorded in the early hours of the morning after the Canadian duo stumbled out of an all-nighter at Studio 54, their breath gone from dancing and their heads ablaze with dreams of disco stardom. From the ever-so-perfect string sweeps, the throbbing bassline, the shimmering production courtesy of Erol Alkan (Mystery Jets, Late Of The Pier), and the hollow-eyed vocal, it is truly thrilling stuff that manages to breathe life back into disco.



SISTERS OF TRANSISTORS

Not content with leading the genre’s renaissance, UK revivalists Sisters Of Transistors seem to have carved their sub-genre in the resurgence of disco, with what we’re calling mystery-disco. Not only does the group have a fondness for capes and shooting their videos in 3D, but there’s also a hint of unseen orchestration behind this twisted organ quartet. Pulling the strings is Graham Massey of 808 State fame, and the only person on this list who’s old enough to remember the heights of disco. Massey and the ‘Sisters create some brilliantly dark yet oddly danceable disco, with undeniable grooves working under the looping, hypnotic organ swirls. It’s mesmerizing and dramatic, and exactly what disco should be.



HEARTBREAK

Fan Death traverses a more traditional, platform-boots and mirror-balls era of disco, but UK-by-way-of-Argentina two-piece, Heartbreak, reaches back to somewhere between Giorgio Morodor’s arrival on the scene and the eventual death of disco when the synths-‘n-eyeliner crowd of the 1980s broke out. Heartbreak is more Human League and early Depeche Mode than Chic. They’re all about waves of bubbling keyboards and the bombastic production gloss of an ABC record. But beneath this there is a clear debt to disco, from their would-be Moroder arpeggio fetish, to the group’s penchant for Bee Gees-like falsettos. It’s scarily good music. — Dave Ruby Howe

Music

October 16 2008


The Death Set make music akin to being mauled by an enraged pitbull. It's a messy, violent and bloody mix of rabid gutter-dwelling punk and frenetic electronic noise that's consistently in your face. So when the Baltimore via Sydney group decided to link arms with infamous Australian party-starters the Bang Gang Deejays for a remix release on their self-established Bang Gang 12 Inches imprint, it was safe to assume that the final result of the hookup would be as twisted and terrific as the source material.

With an enviable selection of technically and stylistically diverse remixers on board, each artist’s revision on the vinyl-only collection somehow manages to remain faithful to the Death Set's vicious energy and style, so much so that the partnerships between band and remixer seem believable and ultimately natural. From the squeal and bounce party-funk of Bonde Do Role's take on Distressed, to the robo-disco of Treasure Fingers' mix, and the glitch and grind of the G.L.O.V.E.S. remix, each wildly different remix still screams Death Set. The whole package is an impressively warped look through the eyes of the Death Set and into their raucous sound-meets-wall/face-meets-bitumen world. - Dave Ruby Howe

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Art

October 16 2008




New York artist Tara Donovan is a master of seeing. Not just looking, but actually seeing. Her sculptural, one-of-a-kind art is based on her ability to see, imagine and create forms, shapes and textures from ordinary objects that most of us don't even notice. She creates art from rolls of tape, pieces of pencil, Styrofoam cups, paper plates, napkins. Her sculptural works evoke thoughts of nature. A perfect example is the 'Untitled' cloud formation she created in 2003 from Styrofoam cups and glue.

The 38-year-old Donovan has recently accomplished several things many artists never achieve. This September, the first monograph of her work was published by visual book press, Monacelli Press (now owned by Random House). A couple of weeks later, on October 10, a traveling retrospective of her work opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

But perhaps the biggest deal is the extra half-a-million dollars that she will have to work with in the next few years. In late September, she received a phone call from the John D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation. She was informed that she had been made a Fellow of the Foundation and that she will receive a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation 'genius' grant. It is a no-strings-attached support of her work over five years. She was selected as one of 25 recipients in 2008. Others include a physician, an astrophysicist, a violinist, a computer scientist and representatives of many other endeavours who were selected for their creativity, originality and potential to make important contributions in the future. - Tuija Seipell

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