Blockbuster, HMV? Jessops, Comet, JJB, Clinton Cards, Game Peacocks
So who is to blame for the downfall in the UK high street ?
Frankly it’s all of us. You and me.
Consumers are all powerful.
Our tastes alter added to which technology is ever the game changer.
So far as the stores mentioned above fewer of us have chosen to shop in them.
I guess the current revolution in retail can be easily illustrated by two heritage stores in one of the most famous shopping streets in the world, Oxford Street.
Both stores are long residents of the street. HMV opened in 1921. The iconic brand with the terrier Nipper with ear cocked to the gramophone speaker of ‘his master’s voice’. At one time the store boasted to be the largest record shop in the world.
Even in last year’s YouGov Brand Index poll the stability of the brand score was respectable enough at +13 despite two step declines on the index in the two previous years.
However indirect competition in the form of Amazon score +48 and Apple +26.
YouGov’s index is a composite score of eight attributes. ( link at end of post )for more details
1. Buzz (whether people have heard anything positive or negative about the brand in the media or through word of mouth)
2. Attention (the percentage of the general public that has heard anything, positive or negative, about the brand in the media through word of mouth)
5. Customer Satisfaction
6. Corporate Reputation
7. General Impression
Closer examination tells the real story though. In the area of value HMV score +6 compared to amazon at +51 . Stephan Shakespeare of YouGov put it
“ If you are in the business of selling CDs or any commoditised product you can’t trail 45 points and thrive.”
So has the internet destroyed heritage brands ?
Many stores have chosen to develop their own on line presence which the pundits explains the retailers who did best this past Christmas season.
Shops themselves are changing.
The American, Apple store led the way in Regent street with its Polo shirted uniformed staff and the lack of tills. The money bit is done via a handheld machine.
The store consists of Zones such as personal training, group training, mini lecture theatre, bookstore, genius zone, kids zone etc. Basically just a set of table with products on to touch and play with and have fun with and staff nearby to help ( ad sell).
The lesson has been learnt ( or possibly re- learnt if you believe in the value of history) by bigger stores. Just a few yards from HMV in Oxford street to the west is Selfridges.
Founder and top salesman Harry Selfridge in Jelly Beans
It’s founder the American, Harry Selfridge who opened his London Store on 15/3/09 and was a game changer in retail in his day.
ITV ( see link at end of post) are currently running a TV series “Mr Selfridge.” It is based on the book by Lindy Wood “ Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge” ISBN 978-1781 250 587 ( originally published 2007)
It is a fascinating read and a great insight into the foundations of retail and fashion and the high street.
The book also challenges the view Marketing orientation as opposed to production orientation came into being after the second world war. But maybe ‘Mile a minute Harry’ was ahead of the game.
Not only did Harry Selfridge leave us concepts like allowing customers to touch and feel the stock, using creative window displays to draw customers into the store
He also took responsibility for leading and instilling a motivated culture of his staff.
Selfridges attractive web page to cheer those of us who have the winter blues
Here are just some of his sayings from times at Marshall Field in Chicago and later his iconic store in Oxford Street. He regularly communicated such quotes with his staff. These saying still resonate with we in Selling in 2013.
“ Remember always that the recollection of quality remains long after the price is forgotten”
Objectives regularly communicated to staff included examples like:-
- “To do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way”
- “To do some things better than we’ve done before”
- “To know both sides of the question”
- “To be courteous, to be a good example to anticipate requirements”
- “To be satisfied with nothing shorter than perfection”
These philosophies still reverberate today with our modern business and its challenges of ethics, continual improvement, intelligence, and challenges in both management and leadership culture.
Today there is considerable disconnect in many businesses between the board and employees. For example less and less field sales managers seldom go out in the field with their team members.
Fewer in ofices get up from their desk and have a real rather than virtual conversation with staff.
Yet Selfridge was managing by walking about long before Hewlett Packard or Guru Tom Peters advocated MBWA. He took 1 ½ hour tour of the Oxford street store every morning.
He would not ask how staff were but rather treat them a retailers – “ Tell me..” he would begin “how is this selling ? or “has this gone well?”
He knew exactly how it had been going for the previous sales reports were on his desk first thing every morning but he wanted to hear it from them. The result was a buzz about the store and a motivated staff.
For the puritanical, Selfridge did get his comeuppance as they would have seen it and died in poverty but the fact is his name lives on in both British High Street in Manchester, Birmingham and London in the Miss Selfridge shops and On line presence.
But perhaps his greatest legacy is to remind us all of the most important and toughest lesson in retail and in Selling of all kinds.
“The Customer is always right”
Amazon link for ‘Shopping Seduction and Mr. Selfridge” by Lindy Wood and all good bookshops!
YouGov brand index
Apple Store at Regent Street