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Global recognition for instore innovation

The Global Innovation Awards (GIA) program was created by the IHA and International Home + Housewares Show to foster innovation and excellence in home and housewares retailing throughout the world. This year saw 30 national winners from 29 countries. The competition is structured on a two-tier level, evaluating national and global retailers across the following metrics: Overall mission statement, vision and strategy, store design and layout, visual merchandising, displays and window displays, marketing, advertising and promotions, customer service and staff training, innovation.

Retailers need to be aware that consumers, no matter the generation, are shopping faster than ever, says Michelle Hespe, author, publisher and content writer of the Home + Housewares Inspiration magazine: “Success will come from making them slow down and notice you.” Adapting to a new emotionally charged and uber-connected world of retail was a point of judging for the selected nominees of the GIA.

Nominees from around the globe, including New Zealand’s own Citta Design, were selected as winners for overall excellence of innovation within their stores. NZ Retailcaught up with several winners from around the globe to see what the win meant for their retail store, and how they think their store stacks up internationally.

Australia: Jumbled, winner of the global nominee award

Judges’ comment: Jumbled is a destination of colourful inspiration that brings the best of the city to rural Australia… A joyful retail space full of colourful and unique finds. Jumbled is a store with soul that shows customers how to build a space with personality. Fresh, bold and playful, Jumbled is a must see for all colour lovers.

Out of 100s of contestants, your store was selected as a winner. What were your thoughts when receiving the title? 

Pip Brett, founder of Jumbled: “We were so excited and humbled to win the Global Honouree Award – it was completely unexpected and a huge honour. It allowed me to travel to the US and meet other people doing inspiring things in retail from around the world. Stepping away from the business for a couple of weeks really allowed me to think about what changes we can make in order to deliver an even more amazing experience for our customers.”

Why do you think your store stood out for the panel? 

To me, it wasn’t about who was making the most sales, but instead about what stores were doing to establish a connection with their customers. I think they really loved our curated ‘zones’, the fact that we’ve created a meeting place with our cafe ‘Nimrod’s’ and that we’ve made it all work together seamlessly. I am really proud of what Jumbled has been able to achieve and the fact that our customers love it so much.

In your opinion, what are some of the top trends are you expecting to see in your country in the next few years?

We’re definitely seeing a focus on sustainable design and products that leave minimal impact on the environment. We’re really trying to embrace that here and are currently investigating ways to be more sustainable with our packaging. Handmade and artisan products are also super popular at the moment and I think we will be seeing more collaborations with artists to create exclusive products.
How do you think Australia sits in the international stage of homewares?

Australia has so many amazing homegrown brands, I think they’re as good as, if not better than any on an international stage.

Austria: Manufactum, GIA winner
Judges’ comment:In line with their brand philosophy, the store provides background information on the 6,000 products that are intended to become long-lasting companions in the everyday life of customers. The products’ interesting stories are brought to the customer through video screens, remarkable product labels and various workshops and seminars that are conducted by the manufacturers themselves.

Can you please give us a bit of background about your store? 

Max Heimann, managing director of Manufactum: As a company with German roots, we have been active in the Austrian market for many years through our catalog and the online shop. For more than 30 years we have been promoting conscious consumption in everyday life and thus have been helping to turn everyday routine into something special. Not only the product will be presented, but also the story behind it as well as information about how to use it or take care of it in everyday life. We organise regular events in all our department stores. 

Was your GIA win expected?

Even though we have already been among the winners in the past, the award for our first department store abroad was a great reward for our commitment and the work that had to be done until we could open our department store in Vienna. We put a lot of passion in the project, and so we see the award as confirmation that we have created a very special shopping experience in Vienna.

USA: Artichoke, GIA Winner

Judges’ comment: The store’s unique merchandising and product selection strategy follows its open concept approach and highlights a showroom aesthetic. The owners will not on-board anything that doesn’t fit with the branding of the store, which includes a product’s aesthetic appeal from design to packaging. The couple even avoids putting displays for impulse buys and add-ons near the register, regardless of its success in other stores, in order to maintain their streamlined, clean look.

What attracted you into retail, was there a gap in the market you saw as inspiration to start? 

Brad and Karen Hughes, owners of Artichoke: “What attracted us was our love for good design, innovation and above all we both like to cook and love food! Further, we were living right next to Findlay Market, the oldest public market in Ohio, and there were no cookware stores in the urban center of Cincinnati. We always said that you could buy any food on earth at the market, but you couldn’t buy a pot to cook it in. If you wanted cookware you needed to leave the city limits and there were no independent cookware stores within a 20-mile radius.”

How long have you been involved with the GIA? 

When we first visited the IHA show six years ago and saw the banners of the stores around the world that were being honored, it was then and there that we decided this was the bar we wanted to achieve. While achieving this honor is thrilling and humbling, the most important part is not the award but the journey to get here. The bar was set with GIA;it was up to us to reach it.

What do you think made your store stand out to the panel?

Early on we realised that because our space was so small, we had to engage in ‘retail jujitsu’. That is, we needed to turn our weakness into a strength. Being small we need to make our space look big by reducing that visible inventory to only the essence of what we are selling… Further, we have an active kitchen in the middle of the store where every team member is encouraged/expected to prepare food during store hours using our equipment.

How do you think your store holds up in comparison to other international winners? 

After reviewing all the entries from around the world I can safely say that we are ‘running with the big dogs.’ And while we didn’t win one of the top prizes, I feel very good about our store and believe even more than before the show that we have a very good retail space that not only highlights our products but also creates a very inviting atmosphere that enhances our customer’s shopping experience.

What about your store do you believe helps it stand out from others in your country? 

When a customer comes in they are not overwhelmed by ‘stuff’ but rather their eye is attracted to specific items, items that we have curated for their function and design. Having a very open and well-lit space greatly enhances the shopping experience and makes our store look bigger than it actually is. We are a curated cookware store, not a hardware store.

How do you think the standard of retail in your country sits on the international stage?

We feel that the US is quite often at the forefront for innovative products. In addition, though, we see a greater appreciation by Americans for European and Asian design. US consumers are developing a greater awareness of the heritage of other cultures, both in their cuisine and in their products. There is an inquisitiveness that has developed toward other cuisines that translates to interest in the cookware that is part of that culture.

New Zealand: Città Design

Judges’ comment:Joining forces with some of the industry’s best New Zealand designers, Città creates beautiful and useful seasonal looks that are accessible and versatile. The core collection of furniture paired with seasonal looks creates fresh and functional styles that customers can easily mix and match. Heavily involved in the community, Città works with charities such as the mental health organisation, Women’s Refuge and Habitat for Humanity, as well as schools throughout the country.

What do you hope your store communicates to your customer? 

Emmett Vallender, COO of Citta Design: Our founder and CEO, Margot Acland started what would later become the Città we know and love today in 1989. Since then we’ve gone from strength to strength, growing from a small importing business to a flourishing design-led company with 193 staff, nine retail stores, a successful ecommerce platform and a multitude of wholesale customers both throughout New Zealand and internationally. 

We have our sights firmly set on further international growth and bringing our relaxed antipodean aesthetic to the world.”

How did you feel when your store was selected as winner?

We were honoured to be recognised on an international scale in the company of world-leading retailers. We’re proud of our stores (bricks and mortar as well as online) and the products we design and curate, so we’re thrilled to know that GIA appreciates what we’ve set out to do. 

What do you think made your store come out on top?

We’re focused on creating beautiful, useful and enduring design staples that suit our customers’ needs and perfectly compliment the way they live. Our dedicated team of talented product designers create and curate our collections, ensuring that everything you see is fresh and original each season which keeps us head of the curve. We aim to inspire and encourage our customers to express their personal style everything we do and we believe that this gives us an exciting edge. 

Tell us about the process that goes into the curation of your store.

Our CEO Margot is very hands-on and works closely with our designers and buyers to curate and shape our product offering. Sourced products are hand-picked for their unique ability to complement our own designs. These items can come from anywhere in the world dependent on where we find the absolute best suppliers – high quality manufacturing and strong ethical values are some of the key priorities that we look for.  Core to our brand is our products ability to tell a story.

In your opinion, what are some of the top trends are you expecting to see in your country in the next few years?

With increased accessibility to global products, identity and brand become a more important to consumers. The understanding and support of sustainability has increased significantly in the past few years and I don’t see this slowing in the coming years. 

Where do you think your country’s retailers sit on the international stage?

While New Zealand is only small, we’re a very innovative bunch. As a country we’re quickly earning a reputation for making waves on the international stage and we fully intend to be a part of this exciting movement. We’re just getting started!

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 761 April / May 2019

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Courtney Devereux is a Communication Consultant at Clear Hayes and freelance business writer.