Wendy Liebmann, founder and Chief Executive Officer of WSL Strategic Retail, traveled to South Africa over the summer to meet with a small group of colleagues to discuss the latest retail issues and trends, as well as to visit several stores in the Capetown area. Recently she spoke with Beauty Insider about three retailers that stood out for their retailing ingenuity. Here’s what she saw:
To clarify, this store is not related to the five and dime. It’s one of the largest family-owned department stores chains that also has a food hall. It’s very European. Woolworth, I would say, is between a Penney’s and Macy’s with a very strong fashion offering. Beauty has a nice presence with global prestige and mid-tier brands. What’s most interesting is what they’re doing throughout the food hall, and on a smaller scale, in their fashion department. They’re very focused on sustainability, fresh and packaged goods, with strong messages relevant to the value of being good citizens, farming correctly, harvesting the right kind of fish, that kind of story. The only thing the U.S. has close to this is Whole Foods, but this is on an entirely different level. Interestingly, they are taking this messaging into fashion, where the materials they’re using for their own brands, which are sustainable, are being communicated with signs that express how the materials help reduce one’s carbon footprint. Looking at it from a U.S. standpoint, there aren’t that many retailers that are looking to create that underpinning that says to shoppers, If you do this it’s a really good value to you, too. It made me think of how the retailers we know could create the same message without necessarily being tree huggers. The question is if you’re a retailer, how do you do it through the whole store? In regard to beauty, most global beauty brands practice sustainability corporately, but I guess we have to ask is it importantfor them to deliver their sustainability message to the customer, and if so, how do they do it?
This is a combination franchise/company-owned stores chain that is fairly developmental at this point. It isn’t necessarily a concept that we haven’t seen before—it’s a beauty specialty store with services, sort of like a Spa Belles but with a retail presence up front—but the store was much smaller than other beauty stores that follow this concept, maybe 2,500 square feet. So their goal is to open in malls, which will help fill the gap for retail and services.
Alexandra Hojer, Skinny laMinx and Los Muertos Motorcycles
Most intriguing were several stores that had manufacturing and selling in the same spot. There was one store, Alexandra Hoher, which housed the Swedish designer’s workshop in the store so you can see her making the clothes. It was very artisanal. She sold her items, which are mainly made from natural South African fibers, at the front of the store.
Another was a home furnishing fabric store, Skinny laMinx, which sells pillows, napkins, aprons, home décor, as well as the fabrics they create. Operated by an illustrator, Heather Moore, the store sells all of her creations.
The third is a motorcycle store, Los Muertos Motorcycles, that sells custom designed motor bikes, as well as the gear that goes along with motorcycle riding, alongside a coffee and cake bar, alongside a production workshop. You can smell the fresh coffee throughout the store. At the back of the store is the production studio, where everything is open and transparent. They want you to see them doing everything. Los Muertos was an intriguing mix of odd things which in two seconds told you all about them. It was really a curated view of someone’s passions— and you wanted to be apart of it. So much of what we do is behind the scenes and these retail concepts felt incredibly fresh.