By Mario Toneguzzi
Inkbox, a Toronto-based startup whose tattoos have been featured in Stranger Things, Russian Doll and The Greatest Showman, has opened a new retail space on Queen Street West unveiling a new brand, a new product and expanding to include permanent tattoos.
“Inkbox is a tattooing system that supports and celebrates the story of you. That’s our high level mandate and purpose,” said Tyler Handley, co-founder and CEO of Inkbox.
“We’re a direct to consumer tattoo brand. We invented a new type of tattoo that lasts one to two weeks that’s applied at home easily and painlessly. You can choose over 4,000 designs or create your own on our website inkbox.com and they’re delivered to your door.”
Inkbox launched in February 2015 as a business which allowed people to get tattoos that lasted for one to two weeks. The specialty designs for the temporary tattoos are purchased online from Inkbox artists and people can apply those tattoos themselves to wherever they would like on their bodies.
The new location offers tattoo designs and a retail space that combines the company’s temporary designs with an area for permanent tattoos.
“Like any other direct to consumer brands online our traffic was driven by Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, but as we’re looking to expand we’re looking to get that into physical retail,” said Handley. “This is our first store that we opened. It’s our first foray into a permanent retail shop whereas we did pop-ups before but nothing that’s ever been like our own store.”
Handley said the store, in about 2,500 square feet, is located along one Toronto’s premier shopping destinations.
“We’re using the store as a way to launch our new products - the new version of our core products. There are current products that we sell still. You get it at home but there’s a lot of steps to apply it. So it’s a bit of a cumbersome application process . . . The new product we’ve launched is an elevated product experience on our core products,” he said.
“First of all, it’s really effortless to apply. It’s much, much easier. And what we’re also excited about is it enables a vast array of different styles of artwork. We can enable artists to upload designs exactly as drawn by hand or with a tablet what have you and it would look exactly like they drew it on the skin. We weren’t able to do that before. So it’s really exciting for us.”
Handley said a percentage of customers use Inkbox to test tattoos for possible permanent tattoos.
So Inkbox has created a sister brand called Inside Out which is the permanent side of the company.
“In the shop itself, in front of it is Inkbox, where people can get tattoos for now and at the back of it is a tattoo studio where we have two resident artists and two other rotating artists coming through. We hired Canada’s most Instagram followed tattoo artist Curt Montgomery to run the shop and it’s really all part of our mandate to just really make tattoos more accessible and more inclusive.”
Handley said the company chose the Queen Street West location because it’s a prominent shopping destination and many people come in to window shop and browse.
“We wanted a spot that would not only act as a storefront to obviously attract revenue but to act as basically a piece of advertising that could increase exposure to the brand locally and really increase brand recall locally,” he said. “So the customer is anyone who is walking down Queen Street. We’re particularly angled towards younger consumers between the ages of 18 to 24 who are curious about tattoos but still in search of their identity.”
Handley said as a startup the company says it is firing balls before firing cannon balls - meaning that the retail storefront is a test to make sure that not only does it drive local traffic to the store and to sales but also drive indirect sales on its website by having that local exposure.
The hope is to expand in the future across North America in terms of retail space in main markets.
“What’s great about being a direct to consumer brand is we have a lot of data, a lot of sales data . . . that we can pull from to understand what markets are best for us to go into,” said Handley. “One of the first markets we would expand outside of Toronto would be Los Angeles because our data shows us that it’s a big city, lots of concentration of customers, but there’s a lot of strong indicators for metrics that show L.A. is a great market for us.”
Handley said about 80 per cent of the company’s online sales are in the United States, 10 per cent in Canada and the rest international. The company sells to about 80 different countries.
*Aurora Realty Consultants handles Inkbox’s real estate needs, under the direction of Jeff Berkowitz.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: firstname.lastname@example.org