The maker movement has become so pervasive—from West Elm to Mall of America to Etsy…and even Amazon.com's new Handmade at Amazon collection—that finding new artisans is no longer the biggest challenge for retailers. It’s having a point of view, says industry veteran Kevin Quinn of StyledLife Consulting. Many Twin Cities shoppers remember Quinn from his former, and extremely popular, Galleria accessories boutique, StyledLife. He recently took on a new role with St. Croix Promotions & Retail, which runs several airport stores, including Uptown MN. Quinn is chief merchant for Uptown MN, which, after a couple of years of holiday pop-ups beyond the airport, has opened a permanent store overlooking the newly renovated center court at Ridgedale Center. A grand opening this week signaled an updated look, and new focus for the store.
Quinn has reorganized Uptown MN into lifestyle categories, including entertaining, home décor, beauty, apparel, and "eats and treats." This might not seem like a big deal, but it marks a definite shift. "Local" is no longer novel. While stories about individual brands are still present, the emphasis has shifted to merchandise categories. You’ll no longer find candles sprinkled throughout the store, brand by brand. Now, they’re all together—because that’s what makes sense to a customer shopping for candles!
“I think the value of shopping local is very important—it resonates strongly with the consumer,” Quinn says. “But time is the most important commodity people have. We want to put the focus on service. So if a customer comes in for a hostess gift, she can make a quick decision. The fact that it’s from a local maker becomes added value.”
And that’s particularly important at a mall or in an airport where most customers are probably not drawn in by the local proposition so much as the desire to buy a gift...that isn’t a corny t-shirt or postcard. The new organization of the store will also make it easier for St. Croix to replicate the Uptown MN concept in other cities (starting with airports), which is Quinn’s big project for 2016. “Every market has its community of makers. It’s about curating the best mix, and bringing in local flavor.”