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Secondary cities and glocal retail strategies

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Fashion brands with eyes set on being a glocal business are straying away from traditional strategies and bypassing major cities.  Secondary cities with populations between 500,000 to 3 million will play an integral role in getting the retail industry back on track and flourishing. Secondary cities have a lower cost of living, have multiple tight-knit communities and are more open to trying new initiatives helping small business owners.  

Recently in Plano Texas, locals celebrated the grand opening of Neighborhood Goods. This new concept is reinventing the department store as we know it by providing an immersive shopping experience with brands, products and concepts changing regularly to keep things fresh.  Similar to the New York retail space - Story, which was acquired earlier this year by Macy’s.

Part of the value proposition for brands to sell into Neighborhood Goods is confidence knowing their brand story is top of mind and amplified across multiple channels throughout the shopping journey.  The NG concept blends physical and digital by hosting events, special guest speakers, a published magazine, social media features, podcast episodes and product accessible via the NG app. It may seem like these are standard activities, however the difference is in execution and the array of brands available to shoppers are specially curated for the NG shelves.  In a nutshell, it’s Girl Boss Rally meets sneaker culture meets Glossier - experience, community and story.

In a nutshell, it’s Girl Boss Rally meets sneaker culture meets Glossier - experience, community and story.

Aussie accessories label The Daily Edited are included in the Neighborhood Goods lineup of brands, the NG website proudly states ‘We believe that the stories behind the brands, and the personal motivations of the people behind the products, is as important as the items themselves.’

This new retail model would fit snugly into secondary cities such as Nashville, Portland, San Diego, and Austin to name a few, as they were featured in the top 20 Secondary Cities to watch in 2018.  Similarly, in Australia - Adelaide would be a fantastic candidate for the Neighborhood Goods model, with their progressive mindset and designer exchange program between Adelaide Fashion Festival and Austin Fashion Week.  

There are many commonalities between Austin and Adelaide that allow for a suitable launch pad for labels to test an international market.  The retail landscape isn’t far from what business owners have experienced establishing a customer base in their home city. Compared to launching a label in Los Angeles or New York, which prominently feature on many designers’ wish lists.  A secondary city can be a great entry point and act as a bridge in accessing larger cities across the country.

So, how can fashion brands launch internationally without the likes of NG and a global customer base?   Typically, it’s an expensive strategy going into new and unfamiliar markets and you usually need a hefty budget for marketing and PR.  I believe there are other ways to consider, here are a few steps to get you on your way to being an international brand.

Tips for going glocal:

  1. Clearly define your mission, vision, values and story.

  2. Do your research into secondary cities - look for a location, culture, and community that is similar to where you’re currently based.

  3. Make adjustments to your brand messaging and USP appealing to an international audience, such as spelling and relevant product names eg - jumper and pullover.

  4. Ensure the backend of the business such as - inventory, marketing, POS and their data points loop back to a central source - having everything in the cloud is desirable.

  5. Make contact and network with the local fashion and textile association, let them know about your brand, story, how, where it’s made and your interest in their city.

  6. Connect with a stylist to gain an understanding of local style trends and shopper habits.

  7. Start tagging and adding hashtags of your target international city in social media posts.  This helps for your products to appear in the feeds of your potential shoppers in those locations.

  8. Visit the city and understand the shopping districts, and identify the stores that are aligned to your style and brand.

  9. Participate in trunk shows to share the range and brand story, building relationships with store owners and staff.

  10. Get up to speed on the legalities of selling your product internationally and make an informed decision that is best for you, the brand and your audience.

With all big business decisions, it’s not something you do quickly.  Take the time to learn about new territories and adapt by watching, testing and learning.  The tools and networks are around you to successfully launch internationally, give it a crack and start slow.

Typed by Saskia Fairfull, founding member of the Independent Fashion Advisory Board. Connecting tech startups with fashion businesses.