Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Timberland's Vivocity Concept Store opens

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It's been months since I last saw my travelling companions and friends during my trip to Inner Mongolia and Sichuan in August, and last Friday, I had the excellent opportunity to catch up with them at an event organised by Timberland Singapore: the official opening of the new 2,400 sq ft concept store at Vivocity, a first for the brand's Asian outlets.

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In conjunction with the occasion, a small exhibition was set up just outside the store, providing information on the Timberland Earthkeepers Collection.

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The exhibition also features beautiful photos taken by the winners of the recent Earthkeepers photo contest, and the trip to Horqin in Inner Mongolia, where we helped to plant 800 pine saplings in an effort to help reverse the effects of local desertification, and restore the land back to the original forest.

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No prizes for finding me in this group photo.

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More photos, this time from the second leg of our adventure, to the stunningly beautiful Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan.

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While everyone was still enjoying their drinks and hors d'oeuvres, George Young, the host of the local version of Million Dollar Money Drop, kicked off the event, with opening addresses by Timberland executives from overseas, who had been specially invited for the opening.

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The new store focuses on the idea of bringing the outdoors indoors, also termed the 'box within a box' concept. Through the use of natural materials and textures, such as the wooden veneers that form the shelves and other structures within the store, there is an attempt to create that visceral emotional connection to the outdoors. At a time when there are widespread fears that people are losing touch with the natural world (with severe consequences for the future success of efforts in sustainability and conservation), it's nice to see how Timberland is continuing to stay true to its origins, by encouraging people to simply make the effort to step outside.

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The picturesque landscapes of New England form the backdrop beyond the "windows"; this is the sort of rugged mountainous terrain where one can truly put the outdoor gear that Timberland is famous for to the test. It's meant to create the impression that you're in a cabin somewhere in the wilderness, and you're gazing out into the forest. Not quite perfect, but I'm already tempted to take my boots out and go off hiking somewhere.

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In conjunction with the opening, the Spring 2012 Collection was launched, and the models did a great job showcasing the latest apparel, footwear and accessories. You can be dressed to spend the day outside, and yet still look trendy and fashionable. The theme for this collection focuses on spending time near the water, and accordingly, the gear is tailored for people who carry out a lot of activities that involve water. Whether you're the sort who likes to spend a day out at the beach or at the docks on your yacht, or can't get enough of canoeing or fishing, or simply want to stay dry and comfortable even after crossing a stream in the middle of a downpour, you're likely to find something that suits your needs.

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I'm trying to think of an appropriate pick-up line should I actually encounter one of these ladies while I'm out hiking.

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I like how there is a conscious attempt to make the whole shopping experience that much more interactive, and gives a lot of background knowledge to show how Timberland takes corporate social responsibility seriously. A touchscreen reminiscent of a giant iPad allows customers to look at topics from Timberland's tree-planting efforts around the world, to the use of a Green Index label to illustrate how it tries to mitigate the environmental impact from the manufacturing of its products.

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You know what? I think Fever Avenue does a much better job at describing how this feature fits in with the overall store concept:
These digital features showcase Timberland's key products, green technologies and brand stories. For instance, a short lifestyle video of Timberland's tree planting efforts in China gives customers a better sense of what Timberland does outside the manufacturing of quality merchandise. The story-telling therefore allows customers to understand the brand's DNA and fosters a two-way dialogue where the company gets to speak directly to its customers in a retail space. The uniqueness and creativity of the entire retail concept and its applicability in this day and age shows just how much thought has gone into developing a retail concept that will not only engage Timberland's customers but connect them at a deeper level to the ruggedness and beauty of the outdoors.
Many of the products in the store are displayed together with a QR code. If you have a smartphone (these days, who doesn't?), you can simply scan the QR code for exclusive campaign-related videos.

Another focus of the new store concept is the Design Your Own booth, where you can actually customise your footwear.

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There are samples nearby for you to refer to as you decide on your own unique design.

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As an example, let's just say that I wish to have a special pair of boots. Very useful if I was say, travelling overseas in a group where everyone was wearing the same Timberland boots. Or a morbid scenario in which I meet with an unfortunate accident and die while outdoors. A distinctive design on my boots would be very useful in helping to identify my decomposed remains when they are subsequently found and recovered, pending confirmation from dental records and DNA analysis. I kid.

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I can watch a short video that shows me how Timberland shoes and boots are made.

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I can choose from a variety of styles. I already own a pair of the Classic 6 Inch boots, so I'll go with that and work from there.

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There are many different details that I can select and customise; for the first step, I can personalise my own pair of boots with special embroidered initials.

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I can choose the colour of my boots.

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And it's not just the upper part of the shoe, but also the leather collar, stitching, as well as the soles, that can be customised.

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There are some samples at the store to help me decide which colour to select for the collar.

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Finally, I can choose the colour of my laces and eyelets.

Then it's all just a matter of printing out the final design, and handing it over to the retail staff, who will process the order. These customised designs are sent to the Timberland-owned factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic, and I can expect to receive my order in 3 to 4 weeks. For those of you who really take pride in being unique individuals, it's a simple way to have your very own exclusive and limited edition Timberland footwear.

You can play around with the Timberland Design Your Own website from the comfort of your home, or if you want to take a closer look at all the different designs and styles, with samples for further comparison, Design Your Own booths are available at the Vivocity and Raffles City outlets.

I had an enjoyable time, viewed a wide range of Timberland products, and had a mini reunion of sorts with many of the alumni from the 2011 Horqin trip.

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The last time all of us were together in the same place, we were relaxing after dinner at the hotel in Jiuzhaigou.

I left with several items, which were distributed to all the invitees:

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The catalogue for the Spring 2012 Collection

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A special personal organiser that serves as diary and sketchbook, which comes with postcards, and a ruler that also doubles up as a bookmark

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And finally, a $50 Timberland voucher. I'd just finished using the last of the vouchers I'd won back in August!

More photos can be viewed at Timberland's Facebook albums, one on the store itself, and the other on the Earthkeepers exhibition. Unfortunately, the photo exhibition was around only until 20th November, but the pictures are being compiled into a coffee table book that will be released in the near future, with proceeds from book sales going towards funding Timberland's reforestation project in Horqin.

On a final note, if you're travelling to colder climes, or just want to get durable and comfortable gear for the outdoors, now's a good time to check out what's available at Timberland. From 11th November 2011 to 1st January 2012, Timberland is holding a year-end sale, with discounts up to 50%. In addition, UOB Cardholders and Timberland Green Class VIPs get an additional 10% off, and Timberland Gold Class VIPs get a further additional 15% off! And just in time for Christmas shopping.

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