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Comment: A successful retail concept is like a cocktail says Michael Longmore of Fishpie Design

In the world of retail there are many opinions of what it takes to make a retail concept actually work – the service offered, the product on the shelves, or maybe the sense of good value  But while a combination of these things will make a retail concept successful, it’s often the failure of just one of them that will be blamed for its demise. A cocktail of components is vital to a successful retail concept.   

Proposition

How many times have you seen concepts wither on the vine?  Woolworths was such a classic example of a brand that carried on doing the same old same old, and forgot to revisit its core proposition.  Another example would be BHS. Now under new ownership, I’m interested to see how its proposition changes – it certainly needs to, to remain in the game.

At the other end of the spectrum are some great examples of niche players like Supreme, The Ginger Pig or Mast Brothers Chocolate, which have focused their propositions on offering great quality products and building up a loyal following, without seeking world domination. Successful larger brands such as John Lewis may seem to have a proposition nailed to the mast, but in truth it has steadily evolved over the years. There is no way that the John Lewis proposition was determined 20 years ago from the ‘partnership’ that existed to serve middle England. Your proposition needs to fit your brand goals, it needs to evolve and it needs to work in partnership with the rest of your retail concept. 

Service

Never before has service been so important. For years it seemed to be the poor relation of the service industry – remember asking for help in the supermarket? You’d be lucky to get a nod and point with the end of the foot!  Now store colleagues take you to the product you’re looking for and even engage in conversation. Service is such a great differentiator.  

Environment

We can shop from the beach, hotel or ski slope so it’s imperative that when we do decide to shop in-store, the store is well-designed, products are well-merchandised and the whole experience is enjoyable. Fashion Houses may create intimidating showrooms but the fashion is displayed in a fun and energetic way. This creates an atmosphere, it adds to the overall experience. For a retail concept to truly work it must be set in an inviting environment, it must encourage the customer, not discourage. 

Value

It doesn’t matter whether it is cheap or expensive, customers need value from their retail experience. In the UK you see brands such as Lidl and Aldi really nailing this element– offering quality products for great value. The same however can also be said for Prada and Rolex. Brands such as The Range or B&M haven’t mastered the idea of ‘value’ and appear to have only considered price – and keeping it down.  Successful retail concepts cannot rely purely on price, it is good value that the customer is ultimately seeking.   

Marketing

A well-oiled, multi-channel approach to marketing is what the buzz is about.  What the customer wants is consistency across all channels.  The luxurious print ads should reflect the look and feel of social, but social should provide a little personality, a look behind the scenes.  If you’re a Burberry customer, then that’s exactly what you’ll get. Likewise, with Nike the marketing all flows together, the brief is seen across the board and is as reliable and stylish as the end product. 

These are foundations which can lead to a successful retail concept.  These elements must work in sync with one another and strike a balance so that the customer feels comfortable, encouraged and reassured throughout their experience.  You cannot rely on any element alone to create a successful retail concept. An amalgamation of these key elements must be put into play.    

Michael Longmore is director of Fishpie Design Agency

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