Brick-and-mortar retailers may be operating cautiously for now, but Daniel Carman, vice president of denim retailer Over the Rainbow, is confident in the resilience of his store.
Launched in 1975 by his father Joel Carman, the Toronto-based shop has become a North American denim destination best known for its denim wall featuring a vast display of jeans for men and women. When Covid-19 forced it to close its doors to the public earlier this year, however, Carman knew it would be temporary. In-store won’t end because of Covid—but it will change, he said during a Kingpins24 webinar this week.
“The importance of brick-and-mortar, even in times like these, is still going to be there,” he said. “It’s just about convincing the consumer that you are the right destination and the most trustworthy and that you have the best product possible. It’s also about re-establishing trust with your existing community as well as other people who are still looking to shop for clothes but are just playing it safe.”
For decades, Over the Rainbow established itself as more than a shop, and in the wake of Covid, it continues to do so. The retailer has reopened to the public at limited capacity. The store has also put in place dedicated changing rooms, more hygienic practices and opportunities for store pick-up. Over the Rainbow has offered in-store tailoring services from the beginning, and is now managing them under strict Covid guidelines.
The store is even “slowly starting to host events again,” Carman said.
In addition to its iconic store and positive reputation within the community, Over the Rainbow’s strong partnerships also enforce its solid foundation. Brandon Svarc, founder of Canadian denim brand Naked & Famous Denim and longtime Over the Rainbow partner, explained that what keeps customers continuously returning is the store’s “nice guy” staff.
That is what inspired the Naked & Famous to collaborate with Over the Rainbow on an exclusive jean that would appeal to both of their customers.
Called the “Nice Guy,” the Naked & Famous Denim x Over the Rainbow jean was introduced in 2017 and has been a popular item ever since. It features an athletic, slim fit with an image of “Super Joel,” an image of founder Joel dressed as a superhero, on the back patch.
“The jean was conceived based on feedback from our customers and from our staff,” Carman said. “It was actually only meant to be a one-off thing, but people were liking it so much that we kept it ongoing for every season.”
For other retailers struggling to offer unique value to consumers in the wake of Covid, Carman advises them to listen.
“It’s just about paying attention,” he said. “And being able to adapt in the moment, as well as adapting for the future.”