The words “curated selection” are etched in big, bold Times New Roman text in the storefront window, advertising a product offering which, in likeness to a fairy godmother, is hand-selected, edited or chosen with care for the customer.
The act of curating is defined by Dictionary.com as to “pull together, sift through and select for presentation.” But the fashion industry has sharpened “curated” with extreme precision to differentiate itself from competitors, numbering its ubiquitous usage in storefronts, whether e-shop or brick-and-mortar.
A popular field of study for those employed at museums, a degree in curatorial studies, promises a strong eye in selection and skills in arrangement of artifacts. But it was poached by retail marketers, merchandisers and buyers — yet the word “curated” and all its subsidiaries are here to stay. In what ways will curation continue to define the new year for both consumer and retailer?
Differentiate Themselves From Competition
Evereve, a women’s omnichannel retailer specializing in premium denim and contemporary fashion, operating 86 stores across 26 states with $120 million in annual revenue, reveals how “merchandise curation” serves to elevate one’s product selection from competitors.
Carrying brands such as Blanknyc, Seven For All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity, Evereve appeals to the woman aged 30 to 55, and aims to provide customers a ‘“story” around ways of putting things together including a personal styling experience while they shop.”
Kristen MacVey, chief merchandising officer of Evereve, formerly of Target Corp., informed that “curation” will continue to hold relevance in 2019. Because customers are inundated with choice, curation of product offering serves in “differentiating companies both in terms of the product selection but also in terms of how that product is presented and marketed in new and appealing ways,” said MacVey.
Similarly, MC2, an award-winning brand experience agency collaborating with Unilever on both the Magnum ice cream bars and St. Ives pop-up retail experiences, offered that curation is key to disarming competitors.
“With competition just a click or scroll away, a curated shopping experience will help distinguish brands from the competition,” said vice president of marketing and growth at MC2, Allen Yesilevich. “Curated for brands means they understand what each customer wants. Curated for customers means they are receiving true value from familiar and unfamiliar brands,” reiterated Yesilevich.
Curated will remain a word of purpose for retailers and consumers, but Yesilevich anticipates the next retail buzzword to attract Millennial and Gen Z shoppers will be “advocacy” citing examples from Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
For its part, WWD has fostered the use of “curation” in its pages for decades — but not with fashion. “The garden party of the season,” or rather the opening of a new sculpture exhibit at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, could not have been what it was without the tasteful curation by Margit Rowell, marking the earliest usage of “curated” by WWD in 1986.
WWD later inserted “curated” into further dialogue, adhering to its roots in the art world and in strict connection to exhibitors. But then, in 2000, WWD used it in a ready-to-wear report to describe items that were hand-picked.
“Today, it’s about impact,” or taking positions on social movements “in effort to build brand affinity with customers who align with their vision.” Alongside curation, brand values will continue to delineate onetime from longtime customers.
Cultivate a Lifestyle
Sene, a Los Angeles-based bespoke contemporary retailer for men and women aiming to make “custom clothing an everyday option,” as reported by WWD, sees curation as a continued trend in merchandising for 2019.
“We’re first a minimalist apparel company. But in-store, we leverage wholesale and consignment to round out the lifestyle of the Sene customer. So we have bikes from Tokyobike, bags from Rains and skin care from Noto,” said Ray Li, chief executive officer of Sene.
Through cross merchandising products, the customer is given vision to a whole lifestyle, instead of one single product category. Common with minimalist lifestyle retailers, such as Need Supply and Muji, the “curated lifestyle” is complete with all aspects of one’s daily routine.
Simple perfumes adjacent to stacked beanies on a curvilinear oak table provide just a sampling of the curated assortment at Need Supply in Richmond, Va. While Muji’s global flagship in the Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu shopping mall is curated with a store-in-store traveler’s paradise. Featured in Muji to Go, the cubicle curation deems travel-ready essentials such as a puff vest, rolling suitcase and mauve soft-bristled toothbrushes in perfect array.
Retail buzzwords come and go, but curation is one word nestled permanently in the vocabulary of retailers and brands wishing for differentiation and lifestyle orientation.