Shop Talk Award Winner

We are so excited to announce the winner of our second annual Retail Concepts Shop Talk Awards! We had an abundance of entries this year and were so proud to see so many retailers out there really pushing the boundaries and doing creative things in their stores. Below we talk in more detail about the winner and the exciting things they are doing in their location to make their store a success. We hope that it will give you some ideas to try in your store. We also have included several other stores that were nominated that we felt deserved to be mentioned for their innovative thinking and strong branding efforts.

Crema Cafe – Cambridge, MA

And drum-roll please…this year’s Shop Talk award winner is Crema Cafe! Why is Crema Cafe is such a great example of a retailer who embodies the Retail Concepts values of what makes a great store really great? Keep reading to learn about some of the terrific things it is doing in-store to make it worthy of the Shop Talk award.

  • Consistent branding and store personality
    There is a lot of energy inside the store and stepping one foot inside, you can clearly see that this is one bustling cafe. We love the store design and how it was well thought-out and integrated it is into all aspects of the brand.

More specifically, the overall store design really works to create the right atmosphere of old and new. It is modern and classic yet clearly state of art as it has invested in equipment, tables, lighting and other key elements of design that makes sense for the concept. All of which works so well to fit in with the culture of Harvard Square which is a vibrant college community yet bastion of artists and unique retailers at the same time.

While there is opportunity for Crema to make its signage more organized and informative so that things are always clear for customers, it does have consistency in its signage and uses a font and graphical approach that visually ties the brand together and clearly articulates the personality of the store.

  • Unique product offerings
    Customers rave about the menu offerings that include a wide array of made-from-scratch savory items and baked goods, as well as coffeehouse drinks that have unique Crema touches (cinnamon and spices added to the hot chocolate, teas combined with juices to create refreshing beverages, etc.) All of this helps Crema to distinguish itself from the numerous other coffee houses in Harvard Square.
  • A clear understanding of what service really means to its customers

The team at Crema understands that great service in 2011 in a busy location is not necessarily about knowing people’s names and talking to customers about the weather or the Patriots, but in fact just the opposite. They work very hard at Crema Cafe to keep things moving and efficient, while continuously churning out fresh and delicious food and drinks in spite of sometimes borderline over-the-top levels of traffic.

  • Defined target market that everything in the store is built around

Given the location, Crema understands the diverse Cambridge clientele. It has a wide appeal to many ages and types of customers who seem comfortable hanging out (working, studying, socializing). Yet upon entering, it is quite clear the cafe is built for young professionals and students looking for a place away from home where they can relax. There is multiple seating arrangements to cater to the customers so they can easily work, chat, surf or game easily and wirelessly without imposing on others.

  • Clean and uncluttered environment
    By design, the atmosphere is a bit chaotic, however everyone seems to be comfortable in spite of this. There is a wall section with posters of local events, which normally we would consider visual clutter, but it works with the local nature and political leanings of Harvard Square. It allows some mess in an organized fashion and fits with clientele and location.
  • Use of low cost or no cost ways to market and brand its store/location
    One low cost/no cost branding approach that works for Crema is that it clearly understands that Harvard Square is very much about the people who frequent it and as a result, the Crema environment plays on that dynamic. It has large communal tables where all the different types are sitting together and you can’t help but notice the super preps at a table with the tattooed folks and the wealthy Harvard parents sitting alongside the local construction guys, and they are all doing so seemingly happily and comfortably.

What else can we say?

Though Crema Cafe does a lot of great things, they don’t do everything the way we would recommend, which is in some ways the point of these awards. What we really love with this example is that it shows you can do things sometimes seemingly contrary to retail “best practices” and succeed. Retail Concepts’ approach is that there is no singular best way to do things in retail and as long as you have a strategic (and brand-related) reason to do something, you can make it work.

Honorable Mentions

We would be remiss to not give a shout-out to some of the other great retailers that were nominated in this year’s awards. So, without further adieu, here are this year’s honorable mentions (in no particular order):



Thank you for all the incredible nominations and we look forward to seeing all the imaginative things you do in your stores in 2011!