Who Do You Love?

The retailers we’re drawn to are the ones whose personas we’d want to share a beer with.
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Posted August 26, 2009

I love my local Anthropologie. And even though these days, I mostly just fog up the store windows with sad little wistful sighs, I’ll be back when things turn around. In the meantime, I still hang out with some of my other favorite retailers, like Fresh Market – where the soothing, upscale atmosphere makes me forget about the economy without feeling guilty, since I’m just picking up bread, wine and produce for a nice dinner at home – and Target (though I still can’t manage to get out of there without dropping a hundred bucks).

I recently chatted with Stanley Hainsworth, a branding superstar and founder of Tether Inc. (Seattle), who used to be the creative director for Nike, Lego and, most recently, Starbucks. He’s going to be talking at IRDC this month about how to figure out who your brand is in order to connect with your customers. As in, if your store were a person, what would she look like? Act like? How would she spend her time? When I think about the retailers I love, I can see those people. Anthropologie is a really cool woman living a comfortable life, confident in her own style and tastes without making a big fuss about it. Fresh Market is Anthropologie’s sister: similar lifestyle, though not quite as quirky. Target might not have as much money as the other two, but she’s determined to live smart without sacrificing fun and style.

These are traits I admire, and these are the kind of people I want to meet up with for happy hour. That’s why I go back to those stores.

I can’t say for sure whether these brands define themselves this way – but an analogy from architect Ron Pompei in our story on Urban Outfitters Inc.  (Anthropologie’s parent company and this year’s VMSD/Peter Glen Retailer of the Year) suggests I’m on the right track. Pompei says that while the Urban Outfitters concept is a mating ground, Anthropologie is a nesting ground. Yep. That’s the same woman I’m picturing.

The parent company’s brands – Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie and Terrain – have a legion of admirers, not only their devoted customers, but design-minded professionals who appreciate (and openly envy) the stores’ attention to craft. “I have brought literally dozens of clients through Anthropologie stores and talked about all the things they do right,” says Lee Peterson, vp, creative services, of WD Partners (Dublin, Ohio).

I’m looking forward to spending time with both Hainsworth and the folks representing Urban Outfitters at IRDC this year. Not to mention Lowe’s, Kroger, Uniqlo, Harley-Davidson and a bunch of other retail personas (and actual people) worth getting to know better.