Lessons From Retail Guru

I’ve always been interested in retailing as a profession.  I could never understand as a nipper suffering drab, uninviting and unhelpful Brummie high streets in my formative years how come everyone seemed so inept.  Then the landscape began to change.  Anita Roddick (The Body Shop), George Davies (Next) and Sophie Mirman (Sock Shop) became feted as stars.  I tried to study a module on it at Uni, but me and my pal Jugsy were the only two to select it, so it went no further.  And to compound the disappointment, my other mates at the time told me not to worry about it, as people in retail earned peanuts anyway.  Try telling that to Philip Green.

So it was with delight I came across yet another biz reality tv show, on BBC with retail guru Mary Portas hosting Mary Queen Of Shops.  At first I thought it might be in the same vein as Gordon Ramsay’s similar gig, where he went in to dismally failing ‘restaurants’ and turned them around.  That was more an instrument in the Cult of Ramsay, rather than real businesses education clearly, as all he ever seemed to say was (expletive-laden naturally) that they need a lick of paint and only serve what customers buy.  Although human misery and conflict made for decent telly.

Mary was refreshingly more insightful, and gleefully for the producers, just as bolshie when required.  I keep finding myself going back to some of the things she said as she rescued a dying Doncaster ‘fashion’ store, to see how I can improve my pitching through her ideas.

Draw them in to everything – No-one ever went to the back of their shop, so she painted it bright pink which, against the comparison of the other white walls, meant people were drawn towards the back, so they passed and saw everything available.  I loved this as my box of tricks has several dozens applications, so I must resolve to ensure I get to expose the whole glitter-bag.

Show things as they are meant to be used – Rather than having rows upon rows of faceless hangers, she introduced several dummies to put up combinations of clothes so people could see them how they could be worn.  I myself could do this way better by simply having print-outs with me.  I used to do this years ago selling software and can’t believe I’ve got out the habit.  Tsk.

It’s all in a name – It’s often the case that you can spend far too much time thinking about a name.  Yet here was a cracking example of how to do something right.  The shop was originally called ‘homeboy’.  Just think of what that conjures up in your mind.  We’re in a Yorkshire town, with more girls clothes than boys on offer.  Mary got it changed.  “Seen” was a brilliant new name.  This might not apply to most selling issues, but a great pointer if you need to be creative.

Offer no end of ideas – What a terrific idea to have a blackboard where the latest celeb rags had pages ripped out and the look of a famous person was shown in front of it with real clothes to buy then and there.  A total winner, and one that captures the “tribe of Beckham” beautifully, so Mary exclaimed.  I am happy I use plenty of current success examples in my pitch – what a revelation to see the concept here work so well.

….and Mary created succes, as sales rose by four-figure amounts on both mans and womans floors.

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