Holt’s set to magenta-ize fashion district

In an effort to create buzz and attract a different consumer, Holt Renfrew is dropping its iconic name for a new pop-up shop launch in downtown Toronto and promoting it with a guerilla marketing strategy - both firsts for the brand.

To Barbara Atkin, VP fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, the meaning of the word ‘pop’ precisely defines the strategy of the high-end retailer’s temporary store opening this week in downtown Toronto.

‘What does a ‘pop’ actually do? It makes a loud explosive noise, everybody stops and looks, and then it’s gone,’ she said.

This Wednesday Holt Renfrew will open its first ‘pop-up’ shop in the downtown fashion and club district in Toronto at 560 King St. W. Although Holt’s flagship Yorkville store is just a few subway stops north of its new temporary location, the Bloor St. emporium might as well be suburban yuppie-ville to the artsy, hipster crowd that the brand wants to attract. But instead of using the traditional advertising approach to mobilize the consumer, Atkin wants to bring the store to them.

To promote the pop-up shop, Holt Renfrew is using its recognizable magenta colour to poster the surrounding area that is home to lofts, advertising agencies, restaurants and clubs. The concept was developed by Holt’s internal team and ad agency Concrete. Staff from the corporate office will act as street teams called ‘Team Magenta,’ handing out flyers while wearing pink coats and scarves. They’re also handing out magenta bracelets with just the address on it, hoping to inspire curiosity. Also for the first time ever, Holt Renfrew is buying an ad in free alt weekly Now Magazine. But the Holt Renfrew brand name will not be present on any of the material.

‘The brand itself, as great as it is and we love our brand, it may be almost a glass barrier to people coming in there because they may have a wrong notion of what Holt Renfrew is. And they might say ‘that’s not the store for us,” says Atkin.

The shop gives Atkin a chance to blur gender lines a bit, stocking it with androgynous merchandise, ranging in prices from $175 to $1,800 Balenciaga handbags. She is also avoiding men’s and women’s segregation, recognizing a lot of Holt’s fashion-conscious customers shop in both. The store will also be the launch for an exclusive line of bowties designed by Fashion Television producer Christopher Sherman.

Atkin says people are already twittering and blogging about the location, wondering if 560 King St. W is a permanent location. The guesswork is all part of the excitement, she says.

‘I feel that this is our time to step out of who we are and what we normally do,’ says Atkin.