Creating & maximizing your retail identity

by Glen Peloso

Your retail identity is the basis of everything you do from there on in. It doesn’t matter whether your identity is clear only to the people in your town or it has a national presence, it is the thing from which all other things “bloom.”

Consider the following retail identities (all of which are national or international for reference sake). All of these retailers are not people but chances are that you would have no issue describing the “personality” associated with each one of them:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • Lululemon
  • Starbucks
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Dollarama
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Tumi
  • Bad Boy
  • EQ3
  • Urban Barn
  • Burberry

Each company elicits a feeling or an emotion. It can be positive or negative depending on the consumer. There is no right or wrong way but only “your way” that is genuine and honest – which ultimately is the path to your success. If you as the owner would never shop at your own establishment, why do you presume to have a clear idea of the personality of a consumer who would? From this personal point of view, everything else is born:

  • Space planning
  • Visual merchandizing
  • Codes of style
  • Visual communication
  • Written & verbal communication
  • Websites
  • Store design
  • Staffing selections
  • Uniforms
  • Customer policy

What can you do to create a smarter business, build for growth, profitability and sustainability?

What problem does your community, municipality, district, province or country have that you can solve?


  • What is it that you do better than the rest? No brand succeeds because they are “just like” but cheaper. They offer something unique.
  • If your brand is drowning in an over-saturated sea of digital sameness, Instagram, retail coupons and email lists aren’t going to save you. You still have to clearly define yourself.
  • No amount of hash tagging or social activation will keep the next company from coming in and taking your spot.
  • Your point of difference is what will make you successful and sustainable, provided there is a client base that wants what you have to sell.

Along with knowing who YOU are …

Every successful retailer must also know: 

  • Who your customers are (age, occupation, income, marital status, desires, hopes and goals, other brands they support)
  • What they want/aspire to
  • How they perceive your business
  • Who your competitors are
  • What is their point of difference?

When you are clear about “who I am” as a retailer:

  • Consistently reinforces your message
  • Create bonds with customers
  • Be consistent in all communications to customers - signage, logo, colour scheme, music, etc.
  • Build relationships - retailers are now “lifestyle partners” and consumers build a relationship (i.e. are you a Tim Horton’s person, a Starbucks person or a local coffee shop loyalist?)
  • Deliver “an experience” vs. a product. The experience can successfully be anything from “Welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order” to “Good evening Mr. Smith. I’ve reserved your regular table and have chilled your wife’s favourite wine. Let me take your coat.”


  • The Windows are “first contact” and an important communication tool
  • Make it unique and memorable
  • Keep refining your formula to maintain and grow your store

Co-founders and principals of design firm Peloso Alexander Interiors, Glen and Jamie are frequent TV guests, having been seen on the Marilyn Denis Show, Global Morning News, Breakfast Television Toronto, HGTV and the Food Network. Both designers, along with their firm’s work, have been featured in print — Glen writes a regular design column for the Toronto Star, while Jamie contributes biweekly to the Toronto Sun.

Glen and Jamie have a combined 40 years of experience in both residential and commercial interior design projects throughout North America. They maintain a retail boutique and design firm in the King East Design District of downtown Toronto.

Glen and Jamie are keynote speakers at the Fall 2017 Toronto Gift Fair.

Peloso Alexander Interiors