By: Chloe Hoy

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Do you ever feel yourself becoming gradually uninspired with the unchanging walls at your retail work space? Step into Deb Nichol’s shoes, and into a term she likes to call, traditional retail. “I wanted to open a lifestyle concept store that did not have to follow any rules and would open only during the busy times of the year,” she explains. And in 2004, The Latest Scoop was born.

The pop-up (n. denoting a store or business that opens quickly in a temporary location and is intended to operate for a short period of time) has evolved since its early beginnings, developing into multiple retail storefronts that are home to the latest trends in fashion and home décor. Wanting to create a boutique feel that was exciting and fresh, Nichol also stressed the importance of maintaining the ‘fun’ aspect of retail, where customers could purchase styles and trends with no regrets (wallet-wise). I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with the founder and owner, where she spoke about the behind the scenes work of planning and executing her pop-up shops.

ON A NEW CONCEPT FOR EACH STOREFRONT:

Nichol and her team evolve their storefronts with each new pop-up, ensuring the locations are unique with not only its products, but décor and colour as well. “We are constantly collecting inspirational ideas. We travel to New York, Los Angeles, Vegas, Paris, Madrid, and wherever else we hear of a great line, store, or tradeshow that needs checking out,” she shares. Much of their purchasing is done on bi-monthly trips to LA or NY, where they are always on the lookout for the latest innovative retailers. “We try to complete a new store build in 7 to 10 days, but each location is different in size and design, so the set up depends on how much we want to renovate the space.” While the planning is time consuming (the team works on keeping costs down, in order to keep their retail prices in-line), the end result is always positive. “Each store we open is our new favourite, therefore, coming up with a new concept is challenging!” Nichol confesses.

ON THE POP-UP CYCLE AND FALL PLANS:

The Latest Scoop is open nine months a year, from March through July, and from September through December. Two fixed locations, including a flagship store on South Granville, give the business an opportunity to keep their staff full-time, and maintain a sense of stability among returning customers. On plans for this fall, the stores are offering a more relaxed feel, drawing mood from their colour of choice – dark slate blue – pallet, and metal accents. A West Vancouver ‘home scoop’ pop-up is their biggest plan in the works – with its focus on furniture and home décor. Customers can browse through ‘take-home’ furniture (no ordering needed, unless you want a colour swap), home accessories, lighting, china, and pillows, among a large selection of items to prep your home for the holidays, and can also take advantage of an in-house interior designer for -hire. “We found a sofa in a big Granville Street store for $4000-ish, and the same sofa in Scoop Home will be $2400, proving that you don’t have to spend a lot to get what you want.”

ON KEEPING UP WITH TRENDS AND PRODUCTS:

“We are buyers. It’s our job to stay current and to remain fresh,” Nichol says about the ever changing retail market. By travelling often, observing, and watching, the team draws inspiration from a variety of their journeys – which include stores, magazines, online design websites, and furniture tradeshows. “We get a ‘feel’ for what we want to say for each season, [whether] it is casual, festive, dark… and then we start building from that.” An “eclectic mix of staff” with individual tastes helps with choosing their collections, and a retail style director aids in keeping current designer trends in line with an affordable price point. “My co-buyer and I usually buy together, and we have one rule – do we both love it? If not, we don’t buy it.”

ON THE FALL’S MUST-STEAL PRODUCT:

Nichol is indecisive when asked which product she would nab from The Latest Scoop’s fall shelves. “The big oversize blazer, the ankle boots, and any of our long, loose cardigans (sadly, those sold out in an hour, but they will be back in stock soon!),” she says. The reasons for her top picks being the ability to go from “casual to cocktail,” while still feeling good in the staple items. “I love them because they represent a new look this season – the big jacket and a cigarette jean with an ankle boot, or layered over a little dress.” Another must-have are their scarves: “They are quite large, so you can [just] wrap up in them. I’ll travel with them on my monthly trips.”

ON THE DEFINITION OF BOUTIQUE:

While recent definitions of ‘boutique’ have sometimes taken on a not-so-affordable disposition, Nichol shares her thoughts on the opinion. “Boutique simply means a smaller store, often an independent store (as opposed to chain), and a store offering a mixture of products. I don’t find boutique means expensive or lower priced. To me, it says, ‘I will find something different.” 

ON CARRYING A MEN’S COLLECTION:

 The stores, although primarily stocked with women’s clothing, introduce a men’s collection each holiday season. “We love that men came in and bought [the items] for themselves,” she shares, as opposed to being purchased as gifts. While the idea to purchase men’s products was here to stay, don’t expect a full-time stocked shelf anytime soon. Expanding the collection for the upcoming stores, Nichol notes that the consideration of a men’s pop-up has been on their minds for a while. However, keeping up with their busy stores is the primary focus, and an additional team and buyer would be needed should the men’s idea take-off.

ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND START-UPS:

 “I am ashamed to say that we have let this slip in the past, but we now have one of our team members [dedicated] to helping us with this,” she notes. Stressing the importance of connecting with others (instantly) on social media, Nichol says the team “loves hearing back from everyone,” and enjoys giving online followers a say in their style and colour choices.

ON ADVICE TO FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS:

 “Be creative, think big, dream, and then put thoughts to action. Ask for help, don’t be stubborn, and learn to plan your budget. Only do what you love to do. Get a mentor – someone that will help guide you. Find a lawyer and accountant that you can communicate with, and ask them for advice on how to set your company up. Don’t work for the money. If you do what you love, the money will come!”

The Latest Scoop retail stores will close at the end of October to revamp for the holiday season, and will re-open their doors around November 1st. Their current locations are 2928 Granville Street and 2470 Marine Drive. Visit them at www.thelatestscoop.ca and on Twitter @ScoopVancouver.