By Mario Toneguzzi
An Edmonton-based jewelry brand has found a unique way to build its business - by sharing storefront space with another retailer with a similar customer base.
Cotter designs every single piece of jewelry the company sells as well as overseeing all the creative elements of the business including the website, branding and store operations.
So Pretty began in 2005 on a very small scale. She was hand-making everything herself and was just online and through wholesale. She built the business very slowly. Then three years ago, she opened her design office on 124th Street in Edmonton - next to the downtown.
“That was just purely to maintain our wholesale business and have some more space and to be able to hire people for our team. As an experiment one holiday season, we did a pop-up with some other local entrepreneurs in Edmonton. Poppy Barley. Pura Botanicals. We did it in Manulife Place across from Holt Renfrew. We did that for a month and a half and it was such a pleasant surprise. I’d never really done retail before. We just had our wholesale business. And it did really well,” said Cotter.
“So my thought on the business really changed at that point. I thought testing out different areas of the city to see where we would be successful would be a good start. We did pop-ups with Poppy Barley again and continued with Pura Botanicals. We seemed to have a lot of crossover in our demographic which is like the 25 to 55 (year old) professional woman. We did Southgate. We did West Edmonton Mall. We did Manulife Place. Then last spring space became available right on 124th (Street) below our office.”
Although it is a smaller space than Cotter would have liked, it does serve as a perfect incubator for the company’s future retail.
Having a pop-up together with Pura Botanicals, a natural skin care and green beauty products retailer, they realized there was a crossover market for So Pretty. Branding is very similar and the two retailers get along really well.
“The direction of retail is really influenced by experiences and community and giving customers something different. So we thought why not do a collaboration, not because we need to financially, but to do something different,” said Cotter. “And we saw through our pop-ups how that experience was translating. So we had proof it would work. Our first year has been really, really good. We opened July last year.”
When a customer walks through the door, it looks like one store but with signage for each retailer.
“We didn’t want it to look like a market or just two separate brands thrown together. We wanted it to be when you walk in you see essentially one store but you discover two brands within that store. Whether they’re coming to see Pura or So Pretty they have an amazing experience but also they’re discovering maybe something different,” said Cotter. “And being part of the community. We’re both female-founded brands. So having that story really helps to connect with our customers. We’re both from Edmonton. That also helps.
“The esthetic is very similar. A lot of whites, and blush pink. Feminine but still very modern . . . I always wanted to make a product that was sort of the attainable luxury category. I’ve never made jewelry out of any base metals or brass. The largest part of our category is everything has a sterling silver base with 18-karat gold really heavily plated on top or just solid sterling pieces. We range from $50 to $450 in that category and our average ticket bill is about $185. We want something that’s price sensitive but also really good quality for what you’re paying. Every design is unique and everything’s handcrafted and we make very limited runs of pieces. We’re not a mass manufacturer. We come out with four collections a year. So there’s always something different for customers.”
So Pretty also sells online with about 30 per cent of its business in that area. The online business began before the storefront was opened.
Cotter said that in an ideal world she would like to do a standalone store in a mall with its own branding.
“But Pura and I have also discussed opening another duplicate store of what we have here in Edmonton in Calgary. That would be a year from now and it really depends on finding the right location with a lot of foot traffic and the right size. So we’re investigating that at this point. We don’t have any solid plans,” she added.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.