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Pat Gillespie recently bought Rhonda’s Maternity, a shop in Toronto’s tony Yorkville area. Ms. Gillespie is a fashion designer who bought the store from its namesake, Rhonda, who opened it in 1971. (Jennifer Roberts For The Globe and Mail)
Pat Gillespie recently bought Rhonda’s Maternity, a shop in Toronto’s tony Yorkville area. Ms. Gillespie is a fashion designer who bought the store from its namesake, Rhonda, who opened it in 1971. (Jennifer Roberts For The Globe and Mail)

THE CHALLENGE

Help me, Rhonda: Should new owner change shop’s name? Add to ...

Claude Auchu, partner and creative director of design, lg2, an advertising agency based in Montreal

I’d change the name. People go to Yorkville because there’s a maternity store, not particularly because there’s a Rhonda store. What’s important are referrals at the office or from friends. If someone recommends Rhonda’s in Yorkville and you go to that location and find a maternity store called Carry instead, you’re still going to enter.

Anther reason is that Ms. Gillespie will probably feel more like she owns that place if she changes the name. It will draw a line between before and after she became the owner. She’d probably feel more motivated by changing.

Whether she keeps Rhonda or changes to Carry, she needs to be out there. I went on Rhonda’s Facebook page, and since August, 2011, there are only 26 fans and the last post was May 15th. Whatever the brand name is, if you don’t work your store and your brand, it won’t make a difference whether it’s a good name, bad name, old name or new name.

Grab attention on the street by working on the signage and having a good showcase for the window display. When I went on Google street view to see her storefront, it was really cluttered. There are a lot of stores on each side and underneath, so even when you’re on the street, you have to look for Rhonda. It’s not in your face.

Tony Smith, vice-president and creative director, Hudson’s Bay Co., which recently decided to replace “The Bay” with “Hudson’s Bay” in its department store branding, Toronto

Rhonda isn’t a modern, compelling, fresh name. It doesn’t resonate in 2013. It doesn’t even have the 20s hipster-cool thing going on, whereas Carry is very current, on-trend in naming.

I was also thinking about the rhythm of her customer base. You come to this store once or twice, maybe three times in your life, but you don’t have repeat customers that you’re trying to create a long-term association with. Her target is first- or second-time young mothers. You have to stay with the times and attract that kind of customer. For online shopping, Rhonda sounds dated as well. If a list of maternity stores came up in a search, I wouldn’t click on it first.

In the case of Hudson’s Bay, we went back to the original name because we felt that a “back to the future” approach was where we were taking the company – maintaining our heritage while modernizing at the same time. It’s a hugely old brand, and for most of the hundreds of years it’s been around, it was Hudson’s Bay Company. Now that Bonnie Brooks has brought in Burberry, Coach and other high-level brands, there’s a current cool factor in going back to the original name.

But in Ms. Gillespie’s case, I definitely land in the camp of “in with the new.” It’s a chance to create a new identity. There are costs involved in getting new business cards, signage and all that stuff but it’s worth it. Calling the house clothing brand Carry as well is genius. There’s your news right there. That’s what you can hang your story on.

Do a PR push to coincide with the opening. Have a party to get the news out and generate a little buzz so people are aware. If you just change the name and don’t do anything to make it news, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Third party recommendations are best, so approach the editorial departments of the magazines like Today’s Parent and Canadian Family and the newspapers. Because it’s new ownership and she’s freshening it up, you can actually make a story out of the newness. You just get one shot to be a real story when you do the changeover.

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