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Jean Coutu Group blurs line between retail box and online retailing

Canada's Jean Coutu Group is helping to bolster holiday sales with the launch of its "e-store window" inside the Longueuil Metro Station. Commuters will be able to shop a wall of deals using their smartphones with delivery before Dec. 24. 

It's not really an example of thinking outside the box, as much as it's eliminating the concept of a box altogether. It's an extension of the Jean Coutu brand name into a space typically associated with billboard-style advertising, only stoppers-by can shop the space as easily as they do in the store or online.  

It's reminiscent of Peapod Markets, partnered with Ahold USA supermarket banners, the grocery retailer donning the walls of key public transit hubs across Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington and generally statewide in Connecticut and Rhode Island. That service routinely delivers packages to more than 350,000 customers per year with an average basket size of $157 and "trips," or shopping occasions, typically happening twice per month per regular shopper.  

Giant Food Stores of Carlisle, Pa., just last week launched its pickup service at five stores in Pennsylvania's Montgomery and Bucks counties

But they're not the only companies who recently have extended their brand names beyond the traditional retail box. 

L'Oréal Paris placed an "intelligent vending experience" within the Bryant Park subway station earlier in November. The smart kiosk first detects the colors in a woman’s outfit and picks out the most prominent and related color palettes, then recommends L’Oréal Paris products to match and allows women to purchase those products on the spot, quickly and easily. The pop-up kiosk will be available through Dec. 30. 

A few suppliers are even extending their brand names into complementary retail channels with pop-up shop locations. For example, Red Carpet Manicure, which makes an at-home LED gel manicure system, has set up a Holiday Pop-Up Shop at the trend-setting emporium of fashion, accessory and beauty brands, otherwise known as Henri Bendel’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.