The Bay fills its White Space

As the retailer and Fashion Magazine debut the new couture department in downtown Toronto, the Bay's VP marketing explains how the retail giant will court the exclusive, fashion-conscious set.

Last week, the Bay was selling its Olympic-themed hoodies to the masses. In contrast, last night’s launch of the ‘White Space,’ a contemporary designer section at the Toronto Queen Street location was an exclusive affair, debuting silk and leather pieces to a select group of tastemakers.

Co-hosted by Fashion Magazine, the event was designed to be both high-impact and high-design, much the like media strategy the Bay has used in launching both the White Space this month, and The Room, a couture department, last fall. The campaigns have been designed to reflect the exclusivity and swagger of the fashion industry, explains VP marketing Patrick Dickinson.

‘If we use traditional media, we’re only going to do it with impact – major, major impact,’ says Dickinson.

To promote the launch, the Bay is running full-page white print ads in the Globe and Mail and National Post this weekend, and eight full-colour executions featuring Canadian supermodel Daria Werbowy in designer dresses will continue to unroll, he explains. All media is handled internally.

‘A lot of these dresses that she’s wearing [are unique] – there’s only four of them. It doesn’t really have the shelf life of a magazine,’ says Dickinson about the choice of newspaper for the rollout. Magazine ads are about taking advantage of the cachet created by brands like Ralph Lauren, who create an image with bigger budgets, and aligning them with the Bay brand, he says. With Fashion Magazine, the retailer is also courting their clientele.

The invite-only event last night was attended by about 300 of Toronto’s trendsetters, munching on hors d’oeuvres as models danced in designer threads. ‘We know Fashion Magazine readers are interested in this kind of shopping destination; they’re interested in this kind of experience,’ says Dickinson.

Various laptop stations were also set up around the room, reminding people to tweet about the event. ‘Instead of starting a Twitter campaign and paying a bunch of money to an online agency, we decided to invite [people] who we know are Twitter-enabled and encourage them to talk about the event while they’re here,’ says Dickinson.

The Bay’s image overhaul is not about completely rejecting the typical department store toaster-and-towels sales, he says. However, the Bay does want to regain the credibility and respect that Dickinson says the company had lost to niche stores and boutiques.

‘We actually have the ability, and we have the critical mass, to make these kinds of statements,’ he says.