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Overview of this new vintage clothing retail client
Lake Erie Knitting Mills was a new, unknown offspring of Ohio Knitting Mills. Former owner of the venerable Ohio Knitting Mills had closed the knitting mill in 2004. He had tens of thousands of warehoused knitwear items dating back to the 40s. He had previously tried a partnership with an entreprenuer that failed and he lost rights to the Ohio Knitting Mills name.
The client was now faced with continuing to pay rent for warehousing the merchandise, dump the merchandise, or try to sell it. He decided on the latter.
Challenges of promoting this retail client:
- The client was new and unknown, so an audience needed to be built and we truly weren’t very sure of who our target market was.
- There was no branding or promotional material
- There was no online presence, or Google Juice (SEO)
- The vintage clothing was moved to a business district (NOT retail), and we were to promote sales at this unusual location
Solutions provided by Edwards Communications:
Branding a new (old) vintage clothing outlet
We had to develop a logo, colors and feel for this new vintage clothing outlet. We had to find our unique positioning, and we had to define the audience.
Target market and unique value proposition
The clothing is all knitwear and mostly women’s. Online research was finding millenials, college and professional, to be the prime market for retail. We also had a secondary market – selling in bulk to wholesalers. In both cases, our differentiating factor was that the knitwear was authentic, never worn and made in the USA.
The new (and old) vintage clothing logo
Our logo and colors were to have the vintage vibe of years gone by, but a slight, modern hipster quality – bringing this vintage knitwear into the 21st century and making it cool again.
Photoshoot on a budget
Wholesalers like to see what the clothing looks like on the rack – that was the easy part. But the retail public want to see it in action – on models and in ideal settings. This can be a costly endeavor, but we crushed it. We put out a Facebook post asking for models who were looking to add to their portfolio. It wouldn’t pay, but we assured them of quality shots that would be valuable experience and portfolio pieces.
A few phone calls to old friends helped as well. We found our models and we had the perfect month for our first shoot – August. We were looking for a location that would communicate a little bit old fashion quaint, and a little bit urban – downtown Willoughby, Ohio was perfect. We did another Fall shoot at a park in Mentor.
The online presence: website, social media, email campaign and SEO
We developed the website relying heavily on the photos from our shoots sprinkled with our brand messaging. We created large galleries for the retail audience on our home page, and directed wholesalers to their own page of mostly product shots.
The About Us page is mostly excerpts taken from a recently released book on the Ohio knitting mill industry that our client helped commission.
Considering that most of our audience was the general public, Facebook was to be our main means of online marketing. We also created a Google Plus page for SEO purposes.
We began dripping photos from our shoots out to Facebook, which kicked off our website traffic very well. We were gaining an audience quickly.
Setting up the actual store (warehouse)
Branding encompasses everything that your audience takes in. And in the case of retail, the actual store experience means everything. We had a warehouse. In the business district of Beachwood. Not a place most young women would think to come shop.
But, we rolled with it. We billed this as a unique shopping experience and played up the word “warehouse” rather than “store”. Although it wasn’t the original warehouse, we wanted to let people think that we simply set up a large showroom and brought our clothing out from the back storage areas.
We created large posters from our photo shoots and decorated the show room with our knit wear and a trade show display.
Advertising: promoting the sales events
Our events were to be monthly: First one in September, second in October and the last one in December.
As of this writing, we haven’t done the December event yet. But, our upturn in business from September to October has our client excited about possibly (probably) re-upping the warehouse lease and resuming the sales in the Spring.
Our advertising strategy was to hit our most targeted channels and get them to the website where we felt we could convert them with our branding and email discount offer.
We heavily relied on Facebook posts and ads and we also purchased a couple weeks of banner and print ads with Cleveland.com/Plain Dealer and Sun News as well as Scene Magazine and the Cleveland Jewish News. Tracking the banner ads in our Analytics, we found Cleveland.com to be our best premium performing outside of Facebook.
We also used GeoFencing to target our college-aged audience in various communities throughout northern Ohio and Erie, PA.
We also sent out 2,000 postcards to local residences.
The results of this retail branding and advertising effort:
Knowing that we had quite the uphill battle ahead of us developing a brand from nothing in just a couple months, and promoting a sale in a warehouse in a business district, our client’s expectations were realistic. We had a moderate turn out for our first, 3-day sale in September. As earlier determined, we’d use this as our test launch, meet and assess our target market, advertising/Analytics results and make adjustments.
We did just that, and we doubled our traffic and sales for October. We’ve also developed a few relationships with wholesalers resulting in moderate bulk sales.
Our client is happy with the results, and although his original intention was to not renew the warehouse lease, he is now considering trying to secure it for another year and continue the sales in the Spring.
“Edwards Communications has done an excellent job developing the brand for my latest venture, finding our audience and promoting our sales.”
– “The Owner” (prefers privacy), Lake Erie Knitting Mills
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