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Go for the Bold

March 10, 2011

I love the Red Cross. When you and I run from away disasters they run towards them. No question, they are exceptional. I discovered how exceptional on Saturday. In a climate where raising funds is hard, they created a business model that generates big buzz and profits.

To learn how, come inside this Melbourne shop. Red tin letters on the wall spell out R E T R O. Clothes and accessories are artfully displayed. Everything is one of a kind but what kind? I grab a tag. It’s a miniature poster of a WWII nurse. It’s beautiful but confusing. Has Red Cross sold their brand name to a retailer? Then, like a tsunami, it hits me.

This is The Red Cross. It’s no longer your grandmother’s thrift shop and girlfriend, or boyfriend, you know those shops: the cluttered chaos and the twin scents of musty and dusty. This store has none of that, thanks to Olivia Cozzolino, a former fashion buyer who is the General Manager of Merchandise. She is the make it happen brains behind the brand’s retail transformation.

In our interview Olivia explains, “There is a big trend for vintage and retro. People are looking for one of a kind hidden treasures.” This is partly thanks to Emmy award winning costume designers Patricia Field of ‘Sex In The City’ and Janie Bryan of ‘Mad Men.’ Both create stunning on screen looks with custom designs and used clothing store finds.

Vintage is hot. Recycling is hot. Disaster recovery is hot, or wet or quakingly dangerous. They are all making news.  Blend these trends in a beautiful, light filled,  fashionably funky shopping experience and the press can’t get enough. Olivia says,  “It’s a great story. In the last 12 months the stores have had a very high profile in traditional media including television and on social media.”

No wonder, Red Cross completely changed the game. They saw what everyone else missed. Fashionistas want unique  new and used goods presented in an environment as beautifully eclectic as they are. They’ll pay a bit more and keep coming back for more.

Hanging archival WWII Red Cross nursing posters on the store wall as art is sheer brand brilliance. They provide personality, vintage credibility and an engaging reminder of the Red Cross legacy. You see the beauty of the past and think about what they do now.  You realize ‘retail therapy’ here means something. Shopping to feel better makes other people better. (Say that three times fast without smiling).

Not for profits cannot outspend to get people’s attention. They have to outsmart which is exactly what the Red Cross did and did beautifully. Well done Olivia and a great team brave enough to go for bold.

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Good is no longer good enough. The goal is perfection and the path that takes us there leads to excellence.
Louise B. Karch