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Be the hub: insights into becoming the community cornerstone

  • Opinion
  • March 17, 2017
  • Juanita Neville-Te Rito
Be the hub: insights into becoming the community cornerstone

One of the typical challenges in the development of a retailer’s network is how you can bring to life your brand proposition in a consistent way that serves as a beacon to shoppers, that is not only effective and cost efficient, but engaging to the local catchment?

In my time as a retailer and especially in a marketing/property capacity there is a huge tension in getting the economies of scale possible from a brand experience (aka cookie-cutter approach) vs. injecting new, local, personality and community-connections into the bricks and mortar environments.

What we do know is that smaller, individual retail businesses can build incredibly powerful (and profitable) propositions from highly personalised service, being recognised “as a local” and having their finger on the pulse to build localised product ranges. What lessons could we take from that is their ability to adapt, tailor and keep their ear to the ground to connect with the heart and soul of the community?

The retail store is the single, most important manifestation of the brand and retail proposition. It brings to life the idea, purpose, reason for being and the environment to build relationships. It is the concept that shoppers are buying into when they choose a store. Often it’s that brand relationship that they take beyond (ie. Lululemon and Augustine mummy uniforms all over Auckland).

A key recognised trend in retail is called Community Cornerstone. An idea whereby retailers are bringing their core set of values to life in a way that connects with their community. While travelling overseas recently, we saw some wonderful examples of this which are allowing brands to push beyond their core offering and providing space and services to build relationships.




Lululemon have opened their newest concept store in Toronto, The Local; the brands first Canadian store focusing strictly on men’s apparel. The space is 2,200 sq ft and is a community focused space where guys can simply come and hang-out. There is an in-house coffee bar (where we tried the most amazing cold-pressed coffee), foosball table, chilling couches with a top shelf sound system, and a space where people can come and work (on the free Wi-Fi). On top of that simply pick-up some men’s Lululemon performance wear on your way out. The vision for this concept is to create an environment and communal experience where the retailer can create engaging and memorable moments that the shopper will return for again and again.



Lululemon’s newest Local in Bondi Beach, Sydney, acts as a community hub to facilitate connection and conversation with innovators, creators and water-obsessed sweaty enthusiasts. This smaller, hyper-local store celebrates the iconic beauty and active lifestyle of the area. Custom work by a local artist is the focal point of the store with two large murals which span the dedicated community space—an environment ideal for meetings, co-working and connection



Peace Collective is a Toronto success story. The brand’s success has been built on Toronto and Canada-centric sayings on shirts and jackets. But these aren’t cheesy, they are utterly cool. The brand had traditionally sold through colabs; Lululemon and major department store Hudson Bay; however has expanded into a dedicated retail store and community space.

The concept is philanthropically-based supporting charity and has effectively created a community movement. With the purchase of select garments, two meals are provided to a Canadian child in need through our partnership with the Breakfast Club of Canada. 

The iconic apparel is now showing up on influencers Instagram feed; athletes, models and the uber cool. Minimalist, simple and community-minded the concept is large-scale local.

At the entrance to the store is Peace Treats, a treat bar with a reminder to “treat yo self.” Wild milkshake creations provide a more frequent reason for shoppers and the community to return to the store again and again.

What makes a store experience local?

It is never just one thing, but rather a combination of factors and emotions that lead customers to connect with the store. That means that retailers need to offer more than just a place to buy stuff; a space to interact and transact in culture, experiences and relationships. This will require a whole lot of different thinking in order to learn how to ‘Be The Hub.’ Just having a “Hello” on the wall or a picture of a mountain won’t be enough.

Knowing and respecting the environment you’re in and concerns of your customers by giving back to the community, ultimately builds a stronger sense of loyalty and pride for the consumer towards the retailer.

At Loblaw’s (iconic grocery retailer) in Toronto, we saw a lovely strong community of people wanting to become healthier attending the daily nutrition class. A natural extension to the retailers offering.



As we see more and more shoppers (especially millennials) valuing experiences over simply buying more stuff, wanting to know and participate in the development of a product, it is time more retailers started to consider what role they play within their communities and what would make a real difference to their shoppers. Being a community-cornerstone could ultimately be the difference in defining your store from the competition enabling customers to shop more often, build a brand that has meaning and a business that is profitable.

This story originally appeared on The Retail Collective's blog.

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