Melbournian’s love to play Alice in Wonderland down the rabbit hole as they step off the street and into a discreet, undisclosed cafe, boutique or specialty store. This `hole in the wall’ style or vertical retailing is becoming increasingly popular for niche fashion stores looking to explore new ways to allure the consumer by offering a unique place of discovery and exclusivity.
One Melbourne retailer, Vogue & Jackson has already jumped on this idea and believes it will change the face of bricks and mortar retailing into the future. Located on level 3 of Carlow House above the famous Flinders Lane, Vogue & Jackson directors Rick Miolo and Carl Cilia took the plunge 7 months ago and opened their hole in the wall menswear store, specialising in evening wear, formal wear, corporate, tailor-made suits and weddings.
In the short video below, Rick and Carl explain the message behind their menswear store and why it is so important now more than ever, to deliver traditional customer service in bricks and mortar retailing;
“What we are trying to achieve with Vogue & Jackson is to bring back the traditional customer service, the caring aspect of customer service, that is lost now in today’s retail world…It’s about creating an environment for a gentleman where they feel like we are interested in them that we’re not just interested in selling a product so our job is to provide a holistic approach in terms of serving the client basically giving them a full run down on how to wear a suit the value of a good quality suit and more importantly a suit that is within their budget.”
Fashion Exposed Blog asked the stylish duo on why this style `suited’ their menswear boutique concept, the new `Discover Melbourne’ advertising strategy employed by council to promote the city as one of the more unique vertical retail locations in the world, the positives and/or challenges of this new boutique style, and how they are changing the face of boutique retailing.
The fashion industry in Melbourne has been using the `hole in the wall’ or vertical retailing style – can you explain this? What is it and why is it so unique to Melbourne?
Vertical retailing or ‘Hole in the wall” retail style operations are now a growing trend in Melbourne. With the smart ‘Discover Melbourne’ campaign used by the council to promote Melbourne as a cultural, unique place to visit more and more retailers that are not opting for typical ground level (Strip shopping) or major department or shopping centres. Vertical retailers are popping up in the most unlikely of places. Lane ways, art deco buildings are fast becoming the foundation that is giving Melbourne a reputation as a unique and aesthetically pleasing destination to explore and experience. These buildings now host some of the most unique and ingenious retail solutions. Often these retailers, including ourselves, Vogue and Jackson, or wholesalers that sell direct to the public can be found on third to 11th floors, tucked away in buildings that we are now starting to appreciate and use to their full potential. It provides a haven for the customers. Especially those not wanting to be part of the hustle and bustle of crowds and looking for that customer focused attention and specialized expertise often difficult to find in a typical retail environment.
Do you have any idea of the history of this style and how it originated?
Vertical retail origins may be attributed primarily to rent being substantially more affordable then the higher rents that CBD shopping strips and department centres demand. Space constraints and shop floor availability was another factor forcing retailers to think vertically. The vertical retailer had to think outside the square and entice customers to their doors by passing on the savings of rent to the client and also offer often a more specialized service and expertise in their craft.
It is a style that seeks to change the face of retail, how and why?
It is a style that is now being embraced by many retailers. Melbourne has many events organized by the fashion industry that encourages the consumer to take tours within their own city and shop with map in hand to discover a unique and exciting retail world. Not only do the consumers discover new and useful shopping destinations but they also have a sense of adventure
and fun often lost in the typical retail experience. Vertical retail has been in existence for many years traditionally provided by the wholesaler that sold the odd piece to the consumer who knew of their existence. Now many smart retailers are forgoing the ground visible experience. Instead of focusing on selling volume of goods to make a profit vertical retailers can focus on choosing to sell quality of goods. The face of retail especially in Melbourne has changed and experiencing a metamorphosis. Customers are leading the change. Typical retail can often make a consumer feel like a number paying for poor service and waiting in long queues. The vertical retailer is making the consumer feel significant again and rewarding them with value for money.
You own store Vogue & Jackson is positioned upstairs from the popular Flinders Lane, what are the positives of this move? What have been some of the challenges? What do you specialise in at Vogue & Jackson, how long have you been open? What were you doing beforehand?
Vogue and Jackson is a specialist menswear retail store located at Level 3, 289 (Carlow House) Flinders lane Melbourne. When faced with the decision of street level and high rents we knew if we went down that path we would have to focus on large volume to break even. For us Vertical Retail offered the best solution. Now open for 7 months we are already experiencing satisfied return clients celebrating the difference we are offering them. It allows us to be flexible with clients, make appointments after hours where necessary and focusing on them and their needs. We sell quality menswear suits, shirts and apparel. There is a made to measure service for suits and shirts made in Australia and off shore (Italy). We also have a concise formal hire arm for gentlemen that haven’t the budget to purchase their wedding suit or that of their grooms men. Our aim is to offer true value for money. We love to make the gentlemen feel special, and informed of his purchases. Also educating the client on styling and etiquette is part of the service. We also offer closed door private group corporate shopping experiences by appointment only. Drinks and light refreshment within a relaxed ambience is often the only way to shop. Prices of our garments reflect the make and quality of fabrics used representing true value for money. For the ladies we offer a made to measure shirt option as well. Even though we don’t advertise this as our main focus ladies are excited and are spreading the word that they have found a quality shirting solution amongst friends. Corporate customers that run their own businesses and shop with us have commissioned us to also make corporate uniforms that are more fashion forward for their staff. The more higher end corporate client that is after a unique identity is very satisfied with the outcome. Vertical retail has allowed us to achieve all of the above and more.
The challenges we face with vertical retail is making the passing consumer aware we are open for trade. Street level signage, especially in Flinders lane where space is of the minimum and strict council regulations apply is often difficult to attain. It has made us think outside the square making sure we use online media and clever forms of advertising to make people aware of where we are located.
Before my business partner and I worked in retail, menswear, for many years. We felt there was a need in the market for more attention to customers and quality of goods sold. Hence why we opened Vogue and Jackson.
Melbourne city council is also promoting Melbourne in a new advertising strategy as one of the more unique vertical retail locations in the world – can you tell us more about this? And how other retailers like you can get involved? What do you think needs to happen in Melbourne to help promote the unique hole in the wall retail boutiques?
The Melbourne City Council has now initiated an advertising campaign at selling to the tourist entering Melbourne to experience the Unique Melbourne Vertical retailing. With the melting pot of cultures in Melbourne we can truly celebrate, food, sport, arts and fashion, that is making this great city shine over our interstate counterparts. There are many events that the council encourage retailers to get involved in within their own industry at very little cost offering good exposure through council funded advertising. We are part of some of these in the fashion industry.
The council can improve when advertising to the world and tourists entering Victoria concerning vertical retailing. Regular updates of events through all forms of media is essential. I also think smells in certain hot spots in lane ways that are developing a tourist following should be cleaned more regularly after hours to ensure it represents a safe environment for a consumer to enter. Also tourist information guides should be more prevalent in lanes as opposed to main streets only. Some of the most frequented streets are the lanes.
An information book or web site should be developed just for vertical retailers that are not on street level. People that work within their own buildings would be shocked at how close they are to a vertical retailers that can satisfy their retail needs.
How have you fared in the bricks and mortar vs online retail war? Is online an integral component of every bricks and mortar retail outlet now and going forward? What are you doing now to prepare for the new future in boutique retailing?
Online retail and the G.F.C crisis has awaken the typical retailer that having a ‘Sale” is no longer good enough. The word ‘Sale’ no longer holds it value. At any given time throughout the year there is a retail ‘Sale’ sign or promotion to entice more spending as opposed to value for money savings. Consumers are often left with dissolution and dissatisfaction with the sale approach of retail promotion.
Online retail may offer a very consistent way to shop. The sale price for online goods are often very enticing now making the consumer have more knowledge and awareness of what value for money on certain goods may represents. The great thing about technology is convenience and accessibility. Even though at the moment Vogue and Jackson do not have online shopping , we are embracing the idea and taking measurements to sell quality goods via that medium soon.
Regardless, in this high tech world one thing I am certain of we all crave high touch. People are constantly searching for the store that makes them feel like they belong and are counted for. There is nothing like referring a friend to a place you have experienced quality service and value for money. Men love feeling like men when buying. Putting up with attitude from often snobby sale assistants with no real concern for them, should be a thing of the past. Unfortunately it still exists. The future of retail boutique shopping is still based on good old fashioned principles with modern technology making the purchase more simpler.
Offer good quality product at reasonable prices. Provide an ambience that is welcoming and relevant to the target market you are serving or attracting. Put the customer first and focus on their needs. Offer sound advice and service that is relevant to their time constraints. The people that represent the company need to believe in what they are selling and love what they do. It shows to the client and they want to return. We all want to belong . At Vogue and Jackson our customers are our life. We love to make them feel good, serve them to the best of our abilities and give them advice that improves there overall image of themselves. Providing value for money is a given. Word of mouth is still I believe the most powerful tool in the success of any business. To keep return clients you must earn them.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. There is so much to cover when talking about fashion. The way you dress and represent yourself is a reflection of your personality. Dressing for events, success, casual affairs can be a fun and rewarding experience. It’s something we love achieving every day when we serve our clients at Vogue and Jackson. We hope to see you soon.
Visit Vogue & Jackson at 289 Level 3 (Carlow House), Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000.
Or head to their website HERE.