Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Making the Old Brand Young: Topshop Revitalizes The Bay

Every year, I invite my Brand Management students to write a guest blog entry. Today, I'll post the first of a few. Enjoy!

Making the Old Brand Young - Topshop Revitalizes The Bay
by Rosalie Beaudoin

When I heard a Topshop boutique was coming to Canada, I jumped for joy. I love the brand.

For those unfamiliar with Topshop, it is a British retailer that has 440 shops in 33 different countries selling relatively inexpensive fashion-forward clothes and accessories to women (It also sells under the name Topman  for men, but let’s be honest, women’s fashion is more interesting!).  The target market for Topshop is a young 15 to 30 year old woman who like to wear trendy/hip and make-a-statement clothes and go out on the town.

What makes Topshop brand so interesting to me is it distinctive style and highly differentiated product line.  If you are not familiar with the “look and feel of the brand”, these product line names will help give you a flavour for what I am talking about:
Psychadelic Dandy, Holiday Sparkle, Rock-oco, and Galactica

A little Holiday Sparkle
As these product line names suggest, Topshop is bold, a little bit edgy, and lets the wearer make a shimmering statement when she goes out. The store and the shopping experience reinforce these notions.
Topshop products have been accessible to Canadians, but only via the online store. Of course, it is tricky to shop for clothing online. There are issues with fit (not being able to try it on) and delivery charges -  which are not applicable to the in-store shopping experience. That, however, changed very recently.

Bonnie Brooks, president and CEO of The Bay, is the one to thank for bringing the Topshop store  (and Topman), from Britain to Canada. The Bay was acquired exclusive Canadian franchise rights.  Yet, this raised a bigger branding question. From a branding point of view, was this a good move for The Bay?

When I heard that the Bay was going to be launching Topshop within their store, I started thinking, do these two brands jive? To me the typical The Bay shopper was an old couple shopping for wool shirts. I wanted to see if my attitude towards The Bay was consistent with others in my segment.  So, I did a quick-and-dirty brand image investigation of The Bay using some classic brand image free association tests. My sample were all Topshop target market consumers.  Here's what I found. Their perceptions were highly consistent with mine: The Bay is  “a dusty, stagnant, and old” brand”. The Bay "is not for me".  In short, The Bay has a relevancy problem among Topshop consumers.

Rock and Shimmer: Topshop
Because of my love for Topshop, I still had to check out the line. So I took the leap and went to The Bay to see the Topshop line after not entering the store for many years. When shopping, however, I realized that the brands The Bay had were more interesting and fashionable than I thought they were. Topshop lured me into see a cornucopia of  brands that are exciting, youthful, and fun- not the dusty, stagnant, and old brands that senior citizens would be wearing. My visit made me change my opinion of The Bay’s brand. It seems that Brooks' strategy for The Bay’s strategy has been  to update The Bay by leveraging the brand equity from the brands that it carries.

The Competitive Collision
So what does this mean? First, The Bay’s image is being revitalized through the brands it carries. That's a win for the Bay, so long as it can lure the desired segments in. Second, Topshop’s image  is not going to be tarnished because it is carried in a revitalized Bay store.  Third, the competitive landscape is on a collision course for this target market. The "old" Bay is becoming more competitive with younger consumers who shop at other places like  Zara and H&M.  Then, in 2013, Target enters the space with 125 additional stores.

As a marketer, it is going to be fun watching these brands collide and compete for young women. But, with more choice, it is also going to a lot more fun for this segment to shop!