So Hip It's Meaningful

04 May 2006|Added Value

It’s no secret that delivering a meaningful shopping experience that resonates with the target audience is a surefire way for retailers to create competitive advantage. So how do retailers create meaningful shopping experiences for fickle, been-there-done-that teens?

Toronto’s So Hip It Hurts (http://www.sohipithurts.ca/), located in that town’s trendy Queen Street West – think cleaner, couther Haight-Ashbury – extends the edgy, individualistic essence of boarding culture outside of the skateparks and into the shop. The store is situated at the top of a narrow staircase that leads to a rabbit warren of rooms that emanate a very Dogtown-Z-Boys vibe. Rooms feature groovy décor elements such as skeletons suspended from the ceiling (on the day I visited, several of them were coupled up in compromising positions – apparently the positions change on a regular basis), a thatched-roof tiki hut, and an Oscar fish whose gory 5 pm daily feedings attract crowds of teens who cheer as the fish devours a handful of goldfish in a swirl of blood and fins (that splatter spectators upon occasion). Shoppers who spend more than $80 CDN get a free beer or shot of liquor.

As a thirty-something (at least I like to think of myself that way) the place didn’t appeal to me at all, but then, I’m sure that’s the point. The juxtaposition of cool boarding brands, edgy (and for sensitive types, somewhat offensive) atmosphere, and a few elements of revulsion serve to keep away adults. So Hip It Hurts isn’t just a shop, it’s a retail experience whose designers know how to tap into the need that teens have to establish an identity separate from their parents and families, while still belonging to a tribe that shares common interests and values. Much like Harley-Davidson, So Hip It Hurts has created a sense of community for iconoclasts, delivering a meaningful (to the target audience, anyway) shopping experience that should be a recipe for success.

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