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Little Greene head of retail Rebecca Ruddle talks about brand building through stores

Paint brand Little Greene is planning more of its own direct-to-consumer showrooms. The brand’s latest store, on the King’s Road in Chelsea, is the latest, joining a select group of sites in Marylebone, Paris, and Munich.

There is a clear strategy behind the move to establish more stores, explains Little Green head of retail Rebecca Ruddle, who joined the brand from her previous role at Made.com. “Retail is a brand building exercise,” she says. “Building the brand through stockists is absolutely fine, but if you really want to communicate effectively your brand to the end user, you have to do that with your own individual retail presence.”

Although it can trace a heritage of paint manufacture back to 1773 and, in its modern incarnation, has been established for a quarter of a century, Little Greene is a privately-owned business that behaves more like a dynamic start-up, says Ruddle. “We have a real quality product, we know and understand our customer really, really well, [and] we are still building the brand – so, even though it’s 25 years old  it still kind of feels like there is this newness, this rebirth, that was exciting to get involved with.”

Little Greene engaged in a long search for an appropriate Chelsea site, and just a short stroll around the area illustrates why: dozens of large scale, multimillion pound home refurbishments are in progress within a paint brushes flick of the King’s Road. There are also a number of destination interiors stores, such as Designer’s Guild and Osborne & Little, in the immediate area. The brand had to move fast to secure its new site once it found it, and had the store open within two months.

The interior has been designed in-house. It offers a ground floor display and sales area, and a basement level offering a spacious consultation room that provides enough space for customers – and their architects or designers if required – to discuss colour schemes and requirements.

Original features of the period building have been retained, all the better to show off Little Greene’s classic paint ranges, says Ruddle. An impactful colour wall covers the entire wall to the right as customers enter the store. Originally designed for exhibitions and later used in the brand’s Munich store, the display uses a gallery of small coloured cubes, allowing customers to see how the how colours change in different lights.

“It is very Instagrammable, as well,” says Ruddle. “It is both beautiful and functional. It serves a purpose in being able to show somebody what the colour will look like in direct light, in shade, in different lights. We can move the lights to be able to show them that.” The cubes are hand-painted with Little Green shades and will be kept carefully dust-free to maintain their impact.

A black wall over the staircase to the store’s lower level will hold full height wallpaper-drop displays, which include coving and skirting boards to give a clear impression of how they could look in a room. The displays are reversible, to allow the displays to be changed frequently and easily.

The ground floor space also includes the main service desk and consultation area, as well as a concealed and sound-proofed paint mixing station so the store can provide customers with exactly the shade they require. Storage for tins of paint is neatly integrated below displays and in cupboards to ensure that the store can hold an extensive amount of stock without looking like a paint warehouse.

Space is also given – for the first time – to Little Greene sister brand Paint and Paper Library, which the brand acquired a couple of years ago. With a more modern identity and contemporary architectural tones, the brand is aimed at customers who are seeking colours not provided by the heritage colours of Little Greene.

Service is a key element of the store. Extensive staff-training sessions were run before the store’s opening to make sure the team is fully briefed on the product attributes, and on the service levels expected by customers engaged in top-end home renovations.

“Our business is so well organised that somebody can call up and 20 minute later walk through the door and pick up their paint or, if they can’t make it into the store, we can deliver it within a few hours anywhere in London,” says Ruddle.

That attention to detail is paying off, with the chain’s showrooms all profitable. “There most definitely will be more [showrooms]. As and when and where those are going to be is still to be decided, but certainly we have been able to get our showrooms profitable and very well-received, so the strategy going forward is to open more of them,” says Ruddle.

Ruddle is well versed in how a physical presence – such as pop-ups in the case of Made.com – can impact online sales. Little Greene is currently bringing in new systems that will help it better measure the impact of its physical sites on its online sales, as well as extending its showroom network.

Paint may be one of the most traditional products sold on the high street, but it seems that the sector may have prospered for so long though constant innovation. From establishing brand-building showcase stores to delivering direct to its customers, Little Greene is set on following that tradition.

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