What good retailers do right and bad ones do wrong

What good retailers do right and bad ones do wrong

“By and large, talent is in such short supply that mediocrity can be taken for brilliance rather more than genius can go undiscovered.” – Charles Saatchi

Visit many formats of retail today and you will see some good design elements and product and well thought-out integration between these two elements. Although increasingly we see that vital element being the website treated like some loveless orphan, bearing no genetic relationship to the parent brand and offer, left to fend for itself amongst the competing siblings being price and margin

In some cases, we see all the elements of ‘fit’ retail including sharply differentiated branded retail offers coupled with impressive in-store experiences integrated seamlessly with their online offer, (think Lorna Jane, Peter Alexander amongst many).

Alas, we also see some retailers lamenting about the good old days rather than innovating and constantly refining their offer. It’s a version of blaming the referee, chiefly the rise of online, globalised retail.  

These businesses fall into the habit of passing the blame – and out trots the typical “we are in the retail doldrums at present it’s super tough out there and a real struggle.” And for these businesses, this comment is absolutely correct. It is a real struggle out there! 

These businesses typically:

  • Are under capitalised.
  • Haven’t recognised the increasing levels of competition both domestically and globally as opportunities.
  • Haven’t brought real innovation to their offer in a long time.
  • Have not embraced the changes to the way in which their customers want to know and communicate with them, such as through online, social and digital media.
  • Aren’t brilliant at the retail basics, delivering inconsistency to their merchandise mix, pricing, range depth.
  • Have underinvested in customer research, brand and truly understanding world’s best practice in their category.
  • Simply bring the same offer, season after season, year after year, to their dwindling customer base.

Look at the commonality of “high business fit” retailers and you soon see the following is evident:

  • “Dominance and power” in the category: they own the space, which is a fundamental of category leadership.
  • Trend leaders/forward thinking – these retailers are spelling out the future.
  • Absolute relevance to their target market.
  • Strong use of all the channels to reach their target audience.
  • Use turnover of product – consistently inventing new stories in product and category to excite and refresh interest for their customers. “What’s new” at these retailers underpins their offer.
  • A consistent and well-executed brand and channel communication strategy.
  • Excellence in execution: they understand that retail is also about being brilliant in the basics.
  • Understand pricing architecture such that they target deep and cater wide.
  • “Closing the loop” in implementing the social media circle.
  • World class integrated business information systems underpinning true omni-channel applications.
  • One view of the customer in CRM platforms, loyalty programs and relevant targeted offers.

To those of us who wish for the good old days where customers shopped in an orderly and predictable way, between set hours, being very loyal and not shopping your competitors, we suggest that you keep looking, while you can.

Happy ‘fit’ retailing.

Brian Walker is managing director of Australasia’s leading retail consultancy Retail Doctor Group.

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