Call it a Comeback: Retail’s Back to Its Fighting Weight

You are welcome to share your thoughts on this article written by Rochelle Fainstein, Digital Marketing Manager at Sterling Brands, New York

It’s 2011 and the Great Recession has been declared: over. After poking out their heads, sniffing the air, and taking stock of their equity, a few Retail brands are equipped with a new strategic plan and poised to re-jigger the marketplace. Here are a few of our highlights for brands that are fighting to win consumers hearts and changing the way we will look at Retail going forward:

Breathing Life Back into Brick and Mortar

Sometimes new ideas stem from looking way beyond the competition, checking out business models from retail categories that are altogether different than the one in which your brand operates.

Over two years of poor economic performance, very few retail store brands have managed to stand out amongst the crowd. Now, JC Penney is hoping to do just that with the recent hire of Ron Johnson, the former mastermind of Apple’s retail store brand strategy.

Johnson will have to work hard to give consumers a reason to head in-store and it’s hard to fathom an angle that’s compelling or entertaining enough to work, right now. It’s so easy to click through Amazon, or even the Penney’s retail website—difficult to imagine why shoppers will suffer the pains of size-finding and seeking out store clerks over the convenience of at-home shopping. Perhaps Johnson will finally help department stores realize that the ability to try clothing on is the superior advantage to in-store shopping and vastly improve upon that experience.

Regardless, looking to the bright mind behind a line of consumer-friendly tech stores is an innovative and bold move for an apparel brand, and hopefully brings a visceral thrill back to shopping.

Meanwhile, The New Generation of Online Store is Here

It took a while, but brands may finally have found a way to communicate effectively on Facebook, and Procter & Gamble has come out as a strong leader for a number of cpg brands.  After a pilot run, P&G has created a number of stores for fans to get their facebuys on, specifically for its Tide, Gillette, Olay, Gain, CoverGirl, Luvs and Febreeze brands.

It remains to be seen how these online retail outlets will fare, as current users generally view brands on Facebook as an intrusion into their private networks. But if the formula works, P&G may just be the first to launch a branding program that actually, measurably monetizes through the medium- at long last!

Competitive Pricing Gets a Wake Up Call

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, brands that differentiate on price alone are going to get left in the dust of Innovators- those that are changing the way we use new or existing products by responding to our needs for convenience and sustainability through new technology.

A great example of this shift is the price-busting technology represented in a new start-up called Shopobot. The brand new service is a shopping tool that tracks the change in price of a particular product for consumers shopping online. Based on a two week history, for example, a consumer can decide when is the best time to jump on a new Canon Elph Digital Camera, and also see if the price has dropped further after the purchase (which may spawn a whole new influx of returns or price-match guarantees). The service is limited to electronics for now but could very easily expand out to other categories in the future.

A Long Shot or a Snapshot of Things to Come?

Some of these attempts at reviving retail brands may fail. But I have to laud the guts of those who keep on trying and adapting in order to survive after the shakeup, and while the future seems so uncertain. Of course, these are just a specific few of the retail Contenders I expect have taken a long, hard look at their business model, from internal operations to the showroom floor. I can’t wait to see who else emerges, taking an innovative turn while going to the mat for their brand. The bell has rung.

About the Author

Rochelle Fainstein is the Digital Marketing Manager for Sterling Brands and doubles as a market researcher and writer on special projects. She has worked professionally in PR, Marketing and Advertising since 2003.

Sterling Brands is a brand strategy and package design firm, founded in 1992 and boasting an all-star roster including design guru Debbie Millman and innovation rockstar DeeDee Gordon. For more information, follow us on Facebook, @sterlingbrands on Twitter, or on the Sterling Brands blog.