On Netflix: Secrets of Selfridges

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Luxury department stores are a treasure trove – not only for tony bags and shoes, but stories. Recent documentary films have focused on the high net worth shoppers and salespeople at Bergdorf’s (Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s) and Neiman-Marcus (The Store). Secrets of Selfridges tells the story of the American visionary behind the infamous UK store and his indelible mark on the world of retail.

Harry Gordon Selfridge Sr., was a Wisconsin native who cut his retail teeth at Chicago’s Marshall Fields. He gained early success by introducing new promotional and customer service concepts. He’s largely credited with the phrases “Only X days until Christmas” and “The customer is always right.”

London Calling

In just eight years Selfridge worked up to general manager, then quickly set his sights on taking the department store model to Britain. The iconic Oxford Street store is an architectural diamond, and his American approach to retail singlehandedly changed London culture.

Never before had different classes of British citizens been welcome in one commercial place as equals. For the first time women were encouraged to shop – without escort! – for pleasure. He embraced the women’s suffragette movement early on, gaining him a loyal following. Shoppers could freely peruse and browse merchandise under the guise of “just looking” instead of being expected to buy. No pushy salespeople here, just lots of merchandise.

Excite the mind and the hand will reach for the pocket.

Selfridge believed retail should excite and delight. His promotional tactics were incredibly successful at driving foot traffic. After Louis Blériot completed the first cross-Channel flight, Selfridge arranged to exhibit his monoplane on Selfridges’s first floor, drawing huge crowds.

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His lasting contributions to retail are seemingly endless. Bi-annual sales? Credit Selfridge. Bargain basement? Selfridge. Cosmetics and perfume counters on the ground floor? Selfridge! H. Gordon Selfridge’s rise and (spoiler alert!) fall is a fascinating tale of a retail pioneer and an American outsider who becomes the king of London luxury.

On Netflix Canada now.

Indigo Launches First Cultural Department Store for Booklovers

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When I was a teen the mall was everything. It was a meeting ground for my friends, a place of escape from our parents and teachers. We’d troll through the same stores again and again, inspired by things we thought defined the people we were and would become.

Today the mall is struggling. Kids connect over social media. They’re inspired by YouTubers. The rise of e-commerce plus our growing desire for experiences over things has chipped away at mall traffic, endangering its survival. Retailers are being forced to rethink their brick and mortar locations as more than a place to house stuff. It has to be a destination. They must learn how to embrace the omni-channel approach – providing a seamless user experience across all channels – while increasing a customer’s dwell time in store.

Retail is far from dead. It just needs to be refreshed.

Enter Indigo. The Canadian bookstore chain opened its latest location at CF Sherway Gardens this summer. The 30,000 megastore brands itself as the “first cultural department store for book lovers.” That isn’t just a tagline. It’s a bold move into the future.

Bookstores have always been categorized by interest, but this store takes it a step further with “shop within shop” boutiques catering to various interests such as health and wellness, home and cooking, fashion, art.

Indigo tapped customer data for insights that resulted in a seamless integration of books and lifestyle products. For instance, people interested in Wellness books are also a likely demo for products like the wildly popular FitBit, Swell water bottles for the ultimate style in on-the-go hydration and even chic, reusable food containers, which you’ll find stacked among the book titles.

Joy of the Table mixes recipe and home decor books with luxuriously homey cookware and table accents. Around the corner, Indigo brings the Canadian Home to life with cozy seating featuring on-trend pillows, throws, candles and a curated selection of 200 single titles that make up the best personal library.

A Room of Her Own is a shop inspired by Virginia Woolf’s famous extended essay “A Room of One’s Own.” This section offers fashion and beauty accessories including scarves, bags, jewellery, watches, eyeglasses, and lotions all surrounded by one of the largest selections of fashion, beauty and style books, in addition to titles by strong female authors including Joan Didion, Mindy Kaling and Shonda Rhimes.

It’s nice to see Canadian brands such as Pluck Tea, Matt & Nat handbags and Jenny Bird jewellery front and center. The store is also home to Indigo’s exclusive Read the North book gallery. #ReadtheNorth is their recent movement designed to inspire Canadians to fall in love with Canadian literature. Through the end of July you can enter to win one of two $500 gift cards in their #ReadtheNorth Instagram contest. Check out some of the familiar and famous helping to promote here.)

The Paper Shop (one of my favourite areas) takes up a massive corner stocked high with Moleskin journals, greeting cards and writing instruments. To add a personal touch to any gift, Indigo offers a complimentary embossing station to monogram journals, pouches and totes.

For the parents, a significant portion of the store is devoted to kids with books and edutainment. Every Tuesday and Saturday they host IndigoKids Storytime with readings for kids up to six years old.

Indigo is one of the best things at CF Sherway Gardens, a mall that boasts luxury shops like Saks and Holt Renfrew with Nordstroms a planned addition this fall. While other bookstores are tanking (talking to you, Barnes & Noble), Indigo is one of the rare success stories in retail, consistently showing revenue increases across all channels. Perhaps it’s because they’ve capitalized on the one area where Amazon can’t compete — the store experience.

ThirdLove Starts Up a Bravolution

ThirdLove balconet bra

ThirdLove balconet bra

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m a big follower of the fashion and tech start-up industry. So when ThirdLove, a San Francisco-based lingerie start-up, contacted me about writing a sponsored post, I had to say yes. They have been ones to watch on the e-commerce scene. It was barely two years ago that ThirdLove was nabbing a cool $5.6 million in seed money.

It’s not a social shopping experience, so it’s actually the perfect category to bring online.

Along with Brayola and True&Co, ThirdLove co-founders Dave Spector and Heidi Zak were early disrupters in the lingerie category. Moving bra sales combined with personal fitting services online makes sense. Zak explained to TechCrunch, in an article published at the time of their funding, “It’s not a social shopping experience, so it’s actually the perfect category to bring online.”

The Fit is the Feature

Before ordering from ThirdLove, I recommend downloading their sizing app to guarantee the right fit. This innovative mobile app walks you through how to take two photos of yourself wearing a bra and fitted tank top. The app uses an algorithm to identify your size based on the photos and matches you to the perfect size. It should be no surprise how ThirdLove married fashion and science – their app development lead is also a senior scientist at NASA. (The app is available on iPhone only, but an Android version is in the making.)

As other women can attest, sometimes “your girls” aren’t a true cup size – enter ThirdLove’s signature half cup sizes. And no matter your size, they’ve got you covered from the AAA to DDDD. ThirdLove also provides a Breast Shape Dictionary to help you define the shape of your breasts. For example, one being bigger than the other means “They’re Sisters, Not Twins.” Get it?! Their style chart will point you in the right direction based on shape as well.

According to Zak, women change bra sizes an average of six times in their lifetime.

While the shape of our breasts might stay the same over our lifetime, our bra size does not. According to Zak, women change bra sizes an average of six times in their lifetime. This rings true when you consider puberty, pregnancy, menopause and lifetime weight fluctuations. It also means we should be measuring ourselves with each bra purchase.

Photo by ThirdLove

Photo by ThirdLove

Let’s Talk About the Pretty

ThirdLove lingerie offers European-inspired lingerie in a small but solid selection of colours and styles. I chose the balconet bra in stormy lilac. It’s so pretty! Made with nylon, rayon and Spandex, the seams and fabric are both soft and comfortable. Their selection of panties, while a bit more basic in design, is quite broad.

Whatever interest they stand to lose on their selection, they’ll more than make up for in price and service. A perfect-fitting bra will only run you $45 to $70, while panties range $11 to $35 and – don’t forget – it’s a perfect fit with no changing room.

That’s something to love.