“Boston is a state of mind” as noted by an old Bostonian Thomas Gold Appleton. The rebellious streak, Irish flair and superior problem solving attitude is as distinct to Boston as freezing winters. Challenges are aplenty, as retail stores get pummeled everywhere, Boston is not immune to vacancy plague .
10% store vacancies is a major problem for Boston but the city is tackling it by a combo of fines for procrastinating landlords and strong tax incentives for incoming young retailers. This is similar to Roseleare (Belgium) that followed Grimsey Report guidelines with success.
We came to inspect if the recipe is beginning to work in larger towns like Boston, and what new brands are coming to town.
Out and about
Outdoor Voices is one of the new arrivals, offering fitness fashion for those who are in it for fun rather than performance. Brand’s slogan ‘’Doing Things” is not just about getting healthier, but also new tech in their new stores. Just like in Apple stores, customers can pay anywhere in the store using Apple Pay as associates use in-hand checkout, thus removing the need to queue up to the cash till. We could also order in store for home delivery or shop from home and collect in store after trying those new yoga pants on just in case of excess optimism on sizing. The tech platform to support this omnichannel freedom is supplied by Boston’s very own (of course) retail platform start up New Store – great to see Boston strong collaboration between local tech and brands, anything to m’sake life easier for customers.
Passion for Pastries
Bostonians, as everyone in US, have fallen for online shopping (35% of New England retail goes through Amazon). But they also know how to celebrate fresh local produce. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the queue around Mike’s Pastries is about 3 man deep. It is a local thing and a bit of a” social” to line up on Hanover Street for a box of the most delicious canoli cakes that I have ever tested (and that includes Sicily). The cakes are beyond delicious when fresh (ricotta cheese filling with fresh pistachios anyone?). However, Mike’s pastry chef has translated them for ecom with Canoli Kit available online.
Blue and white packaging, using sailing ropes as a theme, ensures that everyone walking out of the shop clutching their box of fresh canoli is also a brand ambassador . Great marriage of physical and online, the brand is in the safe hands and making a smooth transition to ecommerce.
Not to be left behind Boston, London’s biscuits lovers are well catered for with super-creative Biscuiteers in Notting Hill Gate bakery. Sky is the limit with the creative crew there, coming up with biscuits for every family occasion, as well as celebrating anniversary of Notting Hill movie for the local romantics, and patriotically iced cakes for 4th of July.
The bakery has a wonderful icing school on site, where you can learn a bit of their magic for your own future gift making. The brand has migrated online with great aplomb, offering great digital personalization tools, an envy of many a biscuiteer in both US an UK.
Boston is growing fast and as a non-grid city (unusual in US), it is challenging to find your way to all the amazing stores and new restaurants. 20% of city’s retail stores change every year so you always need an update before you set off to explore. The solution was invented by local MIT team, forming a start up Soofa.
They provide street benches with phone chargers and screens with digital micro-local guides. They also rolled out vertical street-signs with screens for advertising local retail, bars and restaurants, as well weather warnings about storms or floods. Micro-local breweries and tech meet-ups compete for the space on the ad screens. Locals love them as who does not need to charge their phone when out and about exploring the local pub scene?
Linking the lonely hearts
Where Boston goes London follows. InLinkUK has launched very similar vertical street signs to Soofa with digital screens for local ads and charging points for phones. 60 major locations in UK have been now equipped with over 350 digital InLink points to support tourists location finding and give local retail a way to push their product.
The supplier is connected to BT and thrown in super-fast wi-fi if you are prepared to give your data to register. Over 243,000 people decided the offer is worth handing over their data. We are sad to see the end of the historical red phone boxes, but if the InLink helps local High Street stores to draw more customers thru their ad screens, it can only be an useful addition.
Next week: new Pop Up concepts in US and UK
In the meantime, have a listen to Boston is A State of Mind with Billy Joel and Emma Stangenelli