May 23, 2017

By Polly Wong

Growing up my mom always told me I could make a choice each day to have a good day or a bad day. That it’s our choice to stay positive. In my role as a strategic marketing consultant, that advice is more relevant now than ever as I see a daily barrage of negative headlines such as “The Internet is Broken” and “Retail is Dying.” The NY Times wrote this week: “People are using Facebook to showcase suicides, beatings and murder, in real time. Twitter is a hive of trolling and abuse that it seems unable to stop. Fake news, whether created for ideology or profit, runs rampant.”

Encouraging? Hardly.  At our recent annual client summit in Napa I opened with a message challenging all this negativity about our industry. Specialty retailing is booming, especially for new brands with unique product and/or a unique position. Furthermore, online retailers are investing heavily in brick-and-mortar because consumers still value the traditional store experience. And, as clients’ Spring results are starting to be reported, we see strength across categories and price-points. We can question whether this is truly due to rising consumer confidence or just retail therapy! Regardless, the evolution and growth is real.

To be sure, we all face challenges every day. Our CEO, Andy Ostroy, recently told me, “Without optimism we have nothing. It’s the difference between success and failure. Happiness and misery.” We have used the term “cautiously optimistic many times in the past when asked about consumer confidence or sales forecasts. But the challenge is in balancing all this bad news with the good. In providing you with meaningful data, we’ve partnered with peers like Epsilon to provide annual sales curves for major categories, and we are proactively researching topics including differences in shopping preferences for each generation and key learning points from holiday ‘16. But I agree with Andy…if we are not optimistic, we have nothing. So, let’s be optimistic, create positive energy and harness it all into our future successes together!

May 23, 2017

By Bethany Christie

Over 120 marketers and brands attended Belardi/Ostroy’s 6th Annual Marketing Summit in Napa Valley earlier this month. From discussions about industry opportunities and challenges such as merchandising, creative, data and technology, and customer acquisition and retention, the theme, “Driving Retail Forward,” accurately represented the event.

For the first year ever, Belardi/Ostroy launched its very own Creative Awards. These awards cast a spotlight on specific brands that have recently added customer-centric touches and innovative practices to amplify their successes. Award categories included: Best Picture, Best Remake, Best Series, Best Actors, Best Script, and CSR Salute. The audience avidly voted for the winners.

2017 Awards, Nominees & Winners

Best Picture a.k.a. Imagery: Stand out! The Best Picture emphasized the top displays as individuals process images more quickly than text. Specifically, the nominated brands accurately reflected an emotional or psychological driver.

Nominees: Tea, Serena & Lily, Blu Dot, Lucky Brand

Winner: Serena & Lily

Best Series a.k.a. Retargeting: Mix up the form factors. The Best Series highlighted brands that were recognizable between touches, but not identical. These brands reiterated that personalized communications drive response and increase brand loyalty.

Nominees: J.McLaughlin, Blue Apron, Balsam Hill, Boden

Winner: Blue Apron

Best Script a.k.a. Messaging: These brands accurately used typography and design to make key messages implicit. More specifically, the Best Script nominees understood the importance of tailoring their message to their customers.

Nominees: Pottery Barn, Title Nine, Marine Layer, Samuel Hubbard

Winner: Samuel Hubbard

Best Remake a.k.a. Format Refresh: These brands updated their formats to appeal to a new, and typically younger audience. They simplified their design and put more emphasis on visuals to tailor messages to their customers.

Nominees: Sahalie, Bassett, Gump’s Style, Bounty Hunter

Winner: Sahalie

Best Actors a.k.a. Relatable Models: More brands are using real people and models with accurately depicted proportions and appearances. The Best Actors nominees appreciate that consumers often look for themselves in a lifestyle and therefore, these brands began using real people as models, which inspired trust and affinity and leads to augmented customer retention.

Nominees: Team USA, American Giant, ELOQUII, OluKai


CSR Salute a.k.a. Corporate Social Responsibility: There are a growing number of new brands whose social responsibility is key to their existence. Today, brands emphasize their CSR partnerships, practices and philanthropy efforts. These nominees understood that consumers generally align themselves with brands that resonate with them – and made themselves the “it” brands!

Nominees: Amour Vert, west elm, Bambeco, Merrell

Winner: Bambeco

We would like to thank the audience for casting their votes. Congratulations to the winners! Looking forward to next year’s round of Creative Awards!

May 12, 2017

By Bethany Christie

Belardi/Ostroy’s 6th Annual Summit was attended by over 100 industry leaders and prominent retail brands. During the two-day event, we heard from notable individuals who presented invaluable insights, and we wanted to share them with you!

There were several themes from our esteemed speakers:

LISTEN to your customers. Kelly Goldston, VP of Marketing at ELOQUII emphasized, “A customer-centric organization starts with a culture of listening.” This fabulous brand listens through data collection to better understand the impact of their marketing and product choices. Goldston concluded: “You can’t be truly customer-centric until the entire company commits to seeking out honest feedback from your customers in as many ways possible.”

Takeaway: Get to know your customers and listen to their feedback.

GET REAL with your consumers. Beth Gumm, CMO at American Giant noted, “It’s all about a real emotional connection.” Echoed by many brands at the event, Gumm spoke about the importance and impact of using relatable people to tell their brand stories to fully connect with consumers. Gumm summarized, “You have to connect consumer values with your brand and what you sell.”

Takeaway: It is all about the connection.

REMAIN RELEVANT in your niche. “Great brands are built on being relevant to your customer and differentiated from your competition,” advised Chris Nicklo, VP, Customer and CMO at Z Gallerie. This fashion home brand supports customers by appealing to their interests and innermost desires; marketers must target the right consumers and convince them this is the lifestyle they need. Repeated story-telling is crucial for brand growth. Nicklo said, “We’ve created a brand story that sets the stage for growth.”

Takeaway: Be unique and aspirational.

Overall, this year’s summit was inspiring and relevant. Not only was it a prime networking opportunity, but the ideal occasion to learn from fellow marketers how to further develop, enhance and grow your brand. If you are interested in attending next year’s summit, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!

April 21, 2017

By Alexandra Singer

Every day we read articles about how retail is dying, or at the very least undergoing a dramatic and potentially devastating evolution, raising the question…is the retail “bubble” bursting? Should we be doing a course correction at this point, amending our five-year plans to slow projected growth? Are there fewer sources of reliable, high-responding prospect names available?

We say a firm ‘no.’ Belardi/Ostroy’s business is experiencing appreciable grow through the launch of new catalogs by previously pure-play online retailers, wholesale brands and traditional retailers that are looking for a cost-effective way to find that next responsive customer. These clients find the catalog to be a valuable vehicle, especially for driving demand from customers with positive long-term value. But it is just one part of their marketing mix. In short, our clients are not relying on the co-ops for 80% of their new customers.

Retailers that have run aground (and there are many) are typically too big and increasingly irrelevant, and have thus been forced to shut stores if they’ve been lucky enough to stay alive. Yet, 87% of retail sales in this country are still in physical stores, reinforcing the contention that having a brick and mortar presence still fulfills a huge demand. Being successful in retail is about having a varied marketing mix and skillfully leveraging all channels. In other words, never relying too much on one channel, as consumers’ marketing and shopping preferences are variable and ever-changing.

The cooperative databases Belardi/Ostroy works closely with are constantly evolving. They don’t want their businesses to die, so they are bringing in new sources of data to improve prospecting, and they are creating new revenue streams. And the way we work with the co-ops is unique: we incorporate unparalleled knowledge of how each co-op model performs across our client roster when we’re mapping out strategy for a new client. And we use that expertise to greatly impact the models for each client individually, as every retailer’s requirements and goals are different. But we have clients in so many different categories, targeting so many different audiences, that we have an amazing cross-section of model tests from every co-op from which to refer.

But what happens when there’s an appreciable decline in response rates? We could immediately point the finger at the sources of prospecting names. But it’s also prudent to look to other likely causes such as branding or merchandising issues that often negatively impact prospecting performance.  So what ultimately makes for a truly successful mailing? Relevance, authenticity, staying true to your brand and offering the customer a unique experience is the secret sauce. The best prospect models in the world can’t compensate for a marketer that lacks these critical elements.

For the past three years, January has been a soft month for most of our clients, as the traditional sale/clearance demand in January was pulled back into December with the increase in promotional discounting. Interestingly, we are hearing January was stronger this year than in past years, even with stormy weather across the country and relatively little new product out there. This could be a positive sign of what’s to come in spring. Just last week, the Commerce Department stated that January beat economists’ forecasts. As we look ahead to the next few months, the home category is anxious to see if a new season will give a boost to the 12-18 month softness they’ve been experiencing, and for our apparel clients, it will be interesting to see if the mature brands can drive enough newness and excitement to compete with so many new and emerging brands.

The following article has given us some pause. It was written by the man who predicted the housing crisis, and who is now predicting that the retail bubble will burst. (First of all, what bubble?) He lists 39 retail stocks- and 37 are down. For anyone keeping up on the industry, it is apparent that big retail is down- especially in stores. At the same time, we have seen solid growth in specialty retail and some incredible success stories from emerging brands. Some could argue that the consumer has shifted away from these large, mature brands because she wants something new- not the same old stuff from the same old company. Last week I was with a client whose peers have literally been demolished by Amazon, and yet their business is strong and growing. We truly believe consumer demand is there (as we are seeing so far in Q1), but we all have to work harder to get it!

Here’s to a strong spring season ahead,
Polly & Your Friends at Belardi/Ostroy

P.S. We hope to see you at our conference this spring in Napa. Click here to register.