GETTING REAL

So perhaps you’re a relatively small business. Perhaps your aim is to pinch a bit of market share. How do you go about taking your great idea to the high street, or any street.

I guess I could reel off a list of retail focuses or principles that you could follow in order to create your perfect store.

The obvious, but probably wrong idea is to try to emulate the big multinationals you most admire. You might scour the internet looking for great retail tips from industry insiders. Walk their stores to get ideas.

In the interests of research I did some hunting myself. Here’s some ‘tips’ I found. For some reason ideas in sets of four are popular.

-Location
-Location
-Location
-Location

-Shopfront/window
-Store Layout
-Ambience
-Category Management

-Top sellers first
-Navigation – Clear customer journey
-Secondary purchase or Up-selling
-Lighting

-‘Totality’
-Focal points
-Ease of shopping
-Flexibility

-Welcome/Invitation to enter
-Materials
-Layout and signage
-Visual Merchandising

-Supply chain value
-Experience
-Service
-People/Staff

-Brand expression
-Measurement and analysis
-Market relevance
-Graphic language

All great stuff here, but I reckon it probably wouldn’t help much. Too much jargon, Too generic. Too one size fits all. If you come to the market without a remarkable product or way of doing business at retail, then these lists are all you have to fall back on.

The point is, by being small, you can do things your bigger competitors can’t. The agile, change driven, cheap prototype mindset common to many small companies, is exactly the spirit to approach retail with.

Assuming you’ve developed a way to be disruptive in your market, the task of developing a unique trading space will be so much simpler.

Why not visit the tried and tested rulebook at the end instead. Use the industry standard as a benchmark for how far you’ve come when you look back. Focus on your ‘purpose idea’ and deliver the tricks of your bigger competitiors through the lens of your own talkable innovation. Forget about being big and concentrate on being truly outstanding. Big will come on its own later.

As a stand-out growing business, a better list of things to think about might relate to how you will deal with the growth your amazing idea will bring. What about thinking much longer term?

-How will you gear up to cope with volume?

-Do you have the supply chain systems in place and the inventory to keep you store full?

-Do you have an unrelenting focus on product design, quality and innovation that will drive the customer to keep coming back?

-If retail is partly about theatre, why would you put on the same show time after time. Can you design a space that will change over time?

-Could everyone in the company spend some time on the shop floor, communicating your idea and spreading the word? Shops should be about people and connection. How do you customers interact with your products? What can you learn?

-Don’t assume that the mass market has the same world view as your early adopters. They almost certainly won’t. How will your message and products need to change to address a new audience?

In my experience the transition from niche player to a more established proposition known by the masses often coincides with a need to ‘do’ retail. Perhaps its your first store or you are jumping from 1 or 2 shops to 10 or 20. It’s the hardest leap to make.

You will tread the fine line between losing the credibility of your devoted tribe, and gaining the appeal of a much broader audience. If you think longer term and look at your store as a research space, not just a distribution point, it can become and remain relevant as your company makes this transition.

Picture Above – Here’s as small business with a great idea, a solid online presence and shop that acts as a front for the main office and production facility. Nobrow might not need a further high street presence. Their space is simple. Its a gallery and that suits what they sell. They also turn it into an exhibition space for events to launch new products and ideas. The products are the prime focus.

If they grow however, they have to figure out how to keep the essence of what they have. A one on one with the owners, and the knowledge they hold about their business and their products is the most difficult thing to scale. Thats the magic of the existing shop. You need to avoid scripting the interaction between your people and your customers when you grow.

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