Consumers are demanding authenticity, transparency and social responsibility from today’s retailers. Enter goodMRKT, a new concept store launched by the team at Vera Bradley, that features a curated selection of socially responsible retailers — a collective that is encouraged by a cause and dedicated to doing good. The artfully curated artisan shop opened its doors in Fort Wayne, Ind., in April 2021 and is elevating up-and-coming brands that “dare to make a difference” to the global stage.
Here’s your hit list of everything you need to know about goodMRKT and how it’s leaning into a new retail era of social responsibility.
- The 5,000-square-foot goodMRKT store features a café and more than 30 purpose-driven brands offering a wide variety of cause-based merchandise across categories, including apparel, accessories and footwear, home, personal care, food and gifts.
- The concept was conceived as a lab space for Vera Bradley where the retailer could test different ideas and gain learnings from how small businesses operate, but it also operates as its own startup founded by executives within the company. Harry Cunningham, VP of Retail Brand Experience at Vera Bradley, has been leading the team since the idea’s inception, which began before the pandemic while people were talking about what’s next for the future of retail, Cunningham explained in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. In August 2020, the team pitched it to the mall, Jefferson Pointe, and then it was go time. They assembled a small team of leaders within the company to take on this “side gig” and got to work.
- The design team “upcycled” the existing retail space to retrofit it for their own needs. New paint (lots of it), repurposed fixtures and video monitors plus a new black epoxy floor helped reinvigorate the space. A black-and-white color palette keeps it simple and clean to celebrate the brands, with touches of earth tones integrated in a nod to their diversity. All signage was done in recycled materials.
- The goodMRKT name’s spelling was a “good” mistake, and the logo is actually done in Cunningham’s handwriting. “That happened kind of accidentally, because I was bagging up materials and labeling them for a number of different projects,” Cunningham recalled. “And I actually wrote ‘good’ and then abbreviated ‘MRKT’ unintentionally — we were initially calling it ‘good market’ spelled out — and we just liked how it looked. It was just kind of hit us, ‘That’s it. That’s cool!”
- QR codes are incorporated throughout the store to aid shoppers in learning more about the individual brands’ stories. (Please check out the video on the goodMRKT homepage for a sampling of their stories, but be forewarned, it may be hard to stay dry-eyed.)
- In the future, the store will be used to host in-person, on-site classes with local partners/brands — think art classes, a lesson on dyeing fabrics and flower arranging, to name a few.
- Speaking of dyeing fabrics…As part of its urban farming initiative, goodMRKT and one of its brands, Anchal (a nonprofit that addresses the exploitation of women around the world by using their skills as artisans to create employment opportunities, products and markets), planted marigolds in an outdoor space in front of the store. The staff will dry the blooms and the Anchal team will host a class this summer to teach visitors how to use the flowers for dyeing.
- The concept is open to any brand that “does good,” and Cunningham said they’ll see those brands evolve over time (Read more about the brands here.) The store’s design and overall goodMRKT aesthetic will allow them the flexibility to easily change, update, adapt and add new brands. “The brands all have a very definite shared humanity,” said Cunningham. Whatever they’re doing that’s good is specific to them, and it doesn’t mean they’re the only ones that are doing it, but it’s all coming from the same heart.”
- Building off that strong foundation of doing good, Cunningham said the team wanted to see what else they could do for these brands, and that’s where the “goodBIZ” portion of the concept comes into play. Brands within goodMRKT have access to Vera Bradley’s leadership and education training, which Cunningham said the company will continue to evolve in ways that are specialized for the brands — whether that’s support for email marketing, wholesale markets or expanding their product mix.
- The pandemic, while having massive negative impacts on the world, also offered a silver lining for retailers: “The good thing that came out of it was that it gave us sort of permission to try different things, to be a little crazy, because people wanted something different,” Cunningham said. Prior to COVID, “who knows that this would have come to life at all?”
Editor’s note: Hear more from Cunningham about goodMRKT during his conference session at retailX in Chicago, Aug. 24-25. Register here.
Photos courtesy of goodMRKT