Next week sees the opening of the latest pop-up installment, at Castle Towers shopping centre in Sydney’s Castle Hill. On November 18 this 200sqm store opens until January 31, the third consecutive year that top3 by design has had a pop-up store over the Christmas period, following last year’s at Bondi Junction Westfield, with the year before at the MLC Centre in Sydney’s CBD.
The advantages for the retailer – as well as for the shopping centres – were outlined to Inside Retail Weekly by top3 by design co-founder and MD, Terri Winter.
“It’s usually a win-win situation with the mall or site that we’re doing it with,” Winter said. “Because they may have an empty site for whatever reason over that period, which is obviously not what they want during their busy trading either.
“A lot of the sites want to show that their areas are productive, so instead of them having hoardings, they have an active site during their Christmas period.
“The pop-up stores are really great for us because they allow us to potentially explore a new area. And it gives us the opportunity to maximise the busiest time of the year without needing to pay rent somewhere for an entire year on a site that might not be appropriate for us.”
Accompanying the pop-up store openings is the release of the Christmas catalogue, which usually goes out in November – this year a little earlier in October. The 32-page catalogue goes out via a number of magazines including to subscribers of Gourmet Traveller, Belle, Men’s Style and Instyle.
The other major catalogue comes out in May, just in time for Mothers Day. There’s a large lift around these catalogue releases and major spikes around such gifting periods. Over the past year, the database has averaged an overall increase of 25 per cent – growing from 40,000 to close to 50,000 and eDMs are sent out twice a week.
All about design
Top3 sources the best-designed products from Australia and around the world and is all about ‘reducing the excess that falls outside the top3 parameters of quality, innovation and style’.
The range features over a thousand products, but not more than the three best items by design merit in their class – from homewares and accessories to kitchen and dining.
Winter opines that top3 by design customers seem to be from almost two distinct audiences.
“People who shop with us because they know we have all the right brands; and people who shop with us because they know we have the quality and they don’t know the brands,” she explained. “We have the design students and the design aficionados at the other end of that scale.
“If you go online, there’s so much choice. That’s what we’re there for; we can help them find what they’re looking for without having to know what brands they are.”
Store by design
Top3 by design has four bricks and mortar stores – two in Sydney and two in Melbourne, as well as its online one.
The store décor is quite neutral – timber, grey and white – allowing the items to be the hero, which often showcase fairly vibrant colour.
“I like the stores to be a stage for the products in some ways,” Winter said.
The store layout is re-arranged fairly frequently to keep things looking fresh.
“To give it a focal point – they’re not static. And that’s effective,” Winter said.
Most of the fixtures are modular. The Muuto Stacked (a system designed by architects and sold by top3) is the primary shelving system used. It’s a completely flexible unit, and is regularly moved around in top3 by design stores.
Another store is under consideration for within around 12-18 months. Winter couldn’t reveal exactly where, but did intimate that, “The wish list is potentially in Asia”.
With a graphic design background and an interest in IT, Winter has a particular interest and passion for online.
“We’ve been online since we started in 2001,” she remembered. “We didn’t even have proper shopping carts [back then] – people faxed forms to place their order.”
Today, the online side of the business is growing and very much a focus.
“We’ve been lucky enough to grow with our customers as to what they’ve needed, so our online store is very much an integration with our real stores,” Winter said.
“We don’t treat them as separate businesses, which I think is probably the key to us being a little bit different to other businesses.”
Top3 shows live stock levels for all of its stores for every product in every location and, if they’re out of stock, when the next arrival date is for each product.
“We’re very transparent with all of that, and that’s been my most important baby project over the past couple of years.”
A lot of backend work goes into ensuring it’s trustworthy for customers.
“In the past few years a huge amount of our time has been spent on things that the customer we hope will never see, but will appreciate the benefits of.”
There are, for example, 16 variations of the ‘buy button’ based on whether it’s a pre-order, an out of stock or an instore only item.
“It is important to us that, regardless of how technology changes, it should ultimately be the old fashioned retail concept of the customer first. That never changes and everything we do – and everything we work on both online and instore – is to do our best to always improve our customer experience.”
Top3 has recently put on staff a social media and press specialist who’s also a photographer and stylist.
“We’ll be working really closely to produce a lot of our own material and using the stores like studios and shooting material for both our website and social media,” Winter said.
Customers are people interested in quality products and those interested in design, and these may not be the same people.
“We certainly find that they are people who understand that they get what they pay for. We do have quality products. We have no replicas – everything is authentic and original. So there sometimes is a higher price attached to that compared to ‘getting the look’ but it is always a value proposition.”
She points to the example of umbrellas whereby a lot of people have come into their stores saying, ‘I’ve bought four crappy umbrellas and now I want a proper one.’
“We are finding some of our customers are buying less and they’re buying better,” Winter said. “And we encourage that.
“If people are buying less and buying more thoughtfully, then they are buying things that are lasting them longer and they’re not being so disposable.”
This is another approach by the environmental shopper – making more sustainable choices in actively avoiding creating landfill.
“We’re currently using a hashtag slogan across the business against ‘throwawayism’ – a term that Italy used several years ago which was way ahead of its time.
“We’re hoping to encourage people to think a little bit more about what different approaches there are to sustainability. It doesn’t have to be something that dissolves or is made from recycled. If anything, if something lasts forever it’s more sustainable than something that’s repurposed.”
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