Concerts Power Retail Experience For The Better

Introduction – Concert and Merchandise

Concerts and merchandise go hand in hand. Beyoncé’s current concert tour supporting her number one album, Act One: Renaissance, goes to the next level in building a concert experience inside a luxury retail store. Go behind the scenes as Retail Mashup visits the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP inside the luxury department store, Holt Renfrew, located in Toronto, Canada.

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Hi, this is Retail Mashup. I’m Larry. And I’m DeAnn Retail Mashup the podcast it’s a discussion about the intersections of customer experience in the retail industry. Today I want to talk about Beyoncé. I love Beyoncé and she’s starting the North American leg of her world tour in Toronto, Canada on July 8th and ninth. Interestingly, Toronto is only one of three North American cities to have more than one show. It’s a big city.

Album, Concert and Retail Crossover

To celebrate her Album Renaissance Act One, Beyoncé has done something no one else has done. She is the first African-American woman to create a couture collection with a Parisian fashion brand, (Balmain).

It inspired some of the costumes she’s wearing at the concert and also inspired a collection of merchandise to be sold at the concert venue, on her website, and also at a very special place. So remember DeAnn, we talked about music and pop-up experiences, and Harry Styles having a pop-up shop in Toronto and it was wildly successful.

I remembered saying perhaps Beyoncé should do something like that. Well, she did, she created an experience called the Renaissance Flagship. By working with Holt Renfrew, she created a space to showcase the merchandise people can buy with a price tag from $25 US, all the way up to $450 US. The space also showcases 12 out of the 16 designs from the couture collection for people to look at with a description by song and what they meant to Beyoncé.

Holt Renfrew presents the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP celebrating the Beyoncé concert in Toronto. This list includes merchandises and their prices. Source: Larry Leung

As you know, I live in Toronto and I got there at Holt Renfrew at about 5:00 PM. There was certainly excitement with Beyoncé’s album blasting from the third floor. Take the escalator up and you can sense the excitement that you’re gonna go to something that people don’t know about.

Holt Renfrew presents the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP celebrating the Beyoncé concert in Toronto. Source: Larry Leung

There was a short lineup and everyone got a wristband to go into the space. It’s an immersive space that you have to go room by room. The first room is a direct showcase of the merchandise that you can buy.

The Merchandise Space
You cannot take the merchandise directly from the hanger, you have to take a picture of it. Once you get to the cashier, you show them the picture, and tell them the size, they will find it in the inventory at the back and they would then complete the transaction.

The 21 piece collection available for purchase in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

A black hoodie and matching sweatpants available as part of the 21 piece collection at the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

The Exhibit Room
The exhibit room showcases the couture pieces created by Beyoncé and Balmain’s Creative Director, Olivier Rousteing.

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

Couture pieces featured in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP. Source: Larry Leung

There are photographs of her with the Bowman designer and a little description of the entire collection.

Photographs of Beyoncé and Balmain’s Creative Director, Olivier Rousteing in the RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP exhibit space. Source: Larry Leung

As a concept, it was well laid out. The purchasing experience is interesting because there is no change room for you to try the clothing. People to some degree may be blindly buying things. I don’t think that experience is any different than you going to a concert venue, buying concert merchandise and not being able to try things. So I don’t think that’s any different. But if you’re buying a product up to $450, you may want to try it out. That would be one feedback some of the customers may have.

The experience was amazing. I wish more artists would consider doing this, and I hope Beyoncé’s team seeing the success of this particular experience would push that forward to other cities, including her hometown, Houston. Toronto for the time being it’s the only city in North America to have this particular pop-up experience.

Some of the improvement points I can see: number one, lead time. Holt Renfrew did not provide media coverage until a day beforehand. The media didn’t see the entire exhibit until an hour before the doors were opened to the public. Knowing that there will be a long lineup, I am surprised Holt Renfrew did not work with the vendor to sponsor the event.

I noticed that most people going to the space were Beyoncé’s fans, in general. They’re called the Beyhives. Since you have to go through the escalator multiple times, It would’ve been great to engage people with Beyoncé pictures. As people wait in line, get their numbers or email information so that they entered into a contest to watch the concert.

This is a perfect time to collect information because Beyoncé’s fan base typically would fit a demographic looking for a specific type of fashion. If you can collect their information and there is a collection that matches their taste, then it would be worthwhile to send them that information.

The Discussion

That’s fascinating. I was wishing I could pop over to Toronto and see it because it just sounded amazing. One of the things I find fascinating is the power of social media has led to this hyper-concentration around cultural events.

When you think about Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, I mean, when Beyoncé opened up in Sweden, economists in that country are blaming her for part of the surge in inflation that the country experienced because of all the rush to hotels and restaurants and stores around her, the opening of her concert tour.

The Taylor Swift Effect

So when you think about Taylor Swift, she’s having kind of a similar effect in cities where her tour is. Social media is concentrating eyeballs, and consumer eyeballs around these cultural happenings or trends. It’s so powerful that retailers that ignore these events and trends could suffer a little bit in business.

There is a real intersection happening between culture and retail like never before. I find that very interesting and these incredibly brilliant performers are understanding this and capitalizing on it. What I loved about what you described for Beyoncé and I’ve looked at some of the pictures, is “this is not a retail experience”.

Concert Experience Crossover

This is a concert experience that just happened to be inside a retail store. So Holt Renfrew sponsored a concert experience in their store. I love the way that they have designed it to emulate not letting the media know too much in advance. Some of the things that you said were negatives are, to me, part of creating that concert exclusivity.

The people weren’t known in advance that it was happening. And yet still the lineups were incredible to get in this store. I don’t know if you saw any of that. So it’s working. It’s an incredible experience. I used to live in Toronto and I know that occasionally famous people would show up and unexpectedly perform a concert.

The Rolling Stones in Toronto – Sometimes it’s better to be a surprise

The Rolling Stones showed up and performed at the Copa Cabana Club which is a club that gave them an original break. They didn’t announce it to anybody. But somehow the word got out and the lineup from that nine o’clock that morning for people to get into this little 200-seat basement club to see the Stones perform quite a few years ago.

And this is about that same thing. It’s creating this customer experience that is centered around the excitement of a live performance where you can’t recreate it. You can’t plan for it in advance. You can’t take a piece of the experience home with you.

You just have to live it right there at the moment. I think that’s just brilliant on Holt Renfrew’s part to score this pop-up event in North America. That’s brilliant. Love the way they designed it and love the impact that it’s had on creating that experience.

Just Maybe

I will post more pictures directly on the Retail Mashup website (see above). I agree with you, maybe, part of it, it’s the hype that they need to put out there in the world so that more people will show up. I was talking to some of the vendors in the area and they didn’t know that this was coming up.

If you drive by the street, you may not see the word “RENAISSANCE” on top of the Holt Renfrew logo and sign. Only if you know what’s happening, would you be able to go. I asked the first person who lined up, they were there more than three hours in advance of the store opening.

The RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP was only available in Toronto, Canada from July 5, to 11, 2023 as the first stop of Beyoncé sold out North American tour. This pic was taken 3 hours before the store opening on the first day. Source: Larry Leung

By the time I checked out the line, it was about maybe fifty to a hundred people deep wanting to be the first people to gain access to the merchandise, which will likely sell out. The experience lasts for six days between July 5th the 11th (2023). The tour stop has been sold out for many months.

So what did you buy?

I didn’t buy anything because I’m going to her concert in Los Angeles. In the promotion, there was a specific t-shirt that was created for every city. I was hoping to buy that T-shirt that says Toronto, but I didn’t see it.

Beyoncé partners with Holt Renfrew to bring her RENAISSANCE FLAGSHIP store to Toronto, Canada (Source: Holt Renfrew)

Wow. That is strange. That was a real miss.

Many concert tours nowadays have VIP packages. Why not extend it to a luxury department store like Holt Renfrew as part of the overall experience or maybe even the hotel component to it?

Like you said this is a concert experience and should not limited to the venue only. When you think about going to a concert, it’s a complete overall experience. Why not give people that complete experience through other means?

Thank you for listening. If you like the podcast, please like and subscribe and we will talk to you next time.

* We made some modifications to the transcript to improve understandability and flow.

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