Shopcastr aims to be Pinterest for Toronto fashion retail

We live in a day and age where visual bookmarking and microblogging take up a large part of social communication. I'll be the first to admit that Tumblr is my number one source of inspiration, and Twitter has taken the place of my desire to actually ask what everyone is up to. Thus, it's no surprise that virtual pin boards such as Pinterest, Svpply, and Nuji are popping up all over the place to provide consumers with collections of words, photography, and other visually appealing "things" arranged in a grid-based layout.

Retailers are realizing the potential to promote merchandise through this type of platform, and users are more than happy to share their finds. The relatively new website Shopcastr applies these concepts with an added twist: all products posted are available right in Toronto.

Founded by Matt O'Leary, Aron Jones, and Judy Sims, Shopcastr first launched its beta in November 2011 and now has over 300 Toronto stores registered including F as in Frank, Philistine, and Bungalow. It makes it easier for retailers no matter the size to have an effective online presence - which means no more unattractive and low traffic independent websites necessary.

Of course, the success of a business using Shopcastr is dependent on how up-to-date and informative their profile is. Changes in stock and prices need to be addressed to keep a good rapport with shoppers. The iPhone app - currently only geared toward retailers - makes it possible to take or upload photos of products to quickly update their profiles.

Consumers, on the other hand, are given the option to view only what's new or what's hot in Toronto, as well as drop-down menus to narrow down the selection by neighbourhood or by category. Shopcastr aims to encourage people to get up, get out, and discover hidden gems in local places to shop. They can also click "love" on their favourite items and stores, curating their own library of goods, and developing a customized feed of new products.

I, myself, have been "loving" Jamie Alexander's collection of 18 vintage violins, BYOB's ombrĂŠ glassware, and Pretty Freedom's silk Ralph Lauren blouse. However, unlike Pinterest, it's more difficult to search and connect with other users; it's more for personal rather than social shopping.

Shopcastr still has a long way to go. The founders and developers are continuing to improve its features based on on-going retailer and customer feedback. They hope to eventually expand to cities other than Toronto, and pave the way to becoming the destination site for offline retail.

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