You’re probably guilty of it. Walking into your local Superstore or Loblaws supermarket with a shopping list for the night’s dinner and walking out with pajama pants and candle holders beside your red bell peppers. Impulse shopping at the Canadian chain is going to get more exciting (or more complicated, depending on who you ask) this fall. With the introduction of a new electronics brand, J+/-, and the launch of new home products, eggs and milk may be beside the point the next time you hit the grocery store.
Recently, OurFaves was invited to a preview of President’s Choice Home’s new offerings and the launch of J+/-. We spoke with Emily Staunton and Graham Rooza, the senior product developers behind the Japanese-inspired panda radio and conversion apron (the measurements are upside down so you can read them as you cook) about inspiration, the +/- reference and what’s hot for fall.
What was the focus of the new offerings for fall?
E: A lot of the focus was the back-to-school time-frame, so really, storage solutions, easy ways to decorate the bedroom or dorm room. A lot of the focus was for kids going off to school. Also, sort of ‘Get Organized’ is always a focus for us and is an inspiration for us. So we took that to every area of the house.
For fall, a lot of the focus is very much in home entertaining, back to your roots cooking, family events that happen over that time of the year. So you’ll see a lot of the cooking aspect in the presentation as well as a focus on the tabletop and home entertainment.
G: But also, when you’re looking at the J+/- line, it’s all about simplicity, utilitarianism, classic, pared down, versatile. It’s very different from what you’ll see (in the home entertaining line) which has a family-rooting, nostalgic feel. So yeah, very diverse. That’s a new brand that we’re launching and that’s sort of the aspect of it that we love. It’s very clean and simple.
What’s the story behind the name, J+/-?
G: Well it is just a name, but the “J” comes from Joe, but the plus and minus is that on and off, black and white polarity. Some of our devices, like our little panda bears’ ears, one is a plus and one is a minus. You actually touch the ears to turn the volume up and down. So there are a lot of hidden things in a lot of items that are a lot of fun. Just by looking at it, it speaks to electronics as well and feels very techy. So it’s just a graphic, but we love it and thought it was very suitable for our brand for Loblaws.
E: You’ll also see the “J” playing out in the other brands. We have “Jogi” which is the yoga brand but it’s with a J. You’ll see that with a lot of the Joe brands.
What was the design process for the new products like? Where did you find inspiration?
G: With J+/-, we’re talking about a very Japanese-feeling, simple, bento box, everything’s very compartmentalized, very organized, very clean lines. In the (home entertaining line), we’re inspired by how people live. This table here, it’s all about family values, children, baking, entertaining, having family over. We used very fall colours.
For this year, it was really about family, nostalgia, rooting back to the home, back to the basics, family living. You can see it throughout the assortment. It feels good. It feels Canadian.
Why did President’s Choice expand into electronics?
G: We’ve always thought about Loblaws and President’s Choice as sort of taking care of our customers…the entire home. So what a customer needs in their everyday world – obviously they need food and they need to bake the food, they need to prepare the food, they need to sleep. Well here’s the cushions, here’s the blankets, here’s the throws, all the way through to the children. You need to have stationary, you need to have electronics. So we’re trying to cover off our customers so that there’s a solution to their need at home. They don’t need to run around to different stores in the area. They can get their items in our store. So our products tend to be very solution-based, very impulse-driven. They’ll see an item and say, ‘I can’t believe that’s $5. I can’t believe it’s $1.’ That’s how we view our products. Within that, they’re incredibly well-valued. You don’t realize how great a price that is because you’re in an environment where you’re in save mode. You’re shopping for groceries, you’re trying to save money. You may have a grocery bill that’s already $200 and you don’t want to add another $200 on top of your bill, so we’re very conscious about our retail strategy. Things are generally $20 and under because of that impulse. That strategy also holds true for Joe Fresh. It’s still an impulse environment even if it’s clothing.
Interview and photos by Maria Cootauco