Online Exclusives

The Art of Being Chosen

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | November 30, 2010

A look at how successful retailers are, well, successful.

At this time of year, amid the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers, it can be easy to forget just how brutal the retail business can be. But the list of retailers who couldn’t adapt to the dynamic market changes is a long, familiar one, and includes once-well-known brands such as Woolworth, Montgomery Ward, Eckerd Bradlees, I. Magnin, Laura Ashley, Caldor…the list goes on and on.
 
Meanwhile, retailers like Walmart, Carrefour, Best Buy and Bloomingdale’s, not only survive or thrive, they often dominate their class of trade. What makes one retailer outlast another? Some observers may chalk up who wins and who loses in the retail game to luck or various winning business plans. But industry veteran Martin Butler knows better. In fact, he know so much about winning at retail that he’s written a book, aptly titled “The Art of Being Chosen,” a study of retail business strategy based on face-to-face interviews with leading retailers.
 
 
Martin Butler
In researching his book, Butler interviewed dozens of retail bigwigs, such as Daniel Bernard, former chief executive officer of Carrefour, Mike Gould, chairman and CEO of Bloomingdale’s, and Jack Shewmaker, a former president with Walmart—and he came away with the six secrets of their success, all written in a witty, fast-paced style. Here’s a quick look at what Butler uncovered:
 
1. They knew precisely what business they were in.
As Butler notes, if what you’re selling isn’t unique, the way you do it better be. For example, Macy’s has snapped up many a defunct retailer’s space successfully because it operates 69 intelligence units that are each responsible for just 10-12 stores. That way, each store is sure to carry exactly what they need and sell everything they get. Or as Butler notes, when a service based business starts making decisions based on P&L, it is sure to fail!
 
2. They won’t be chosen if they are not trusted.
According to the author, there’s noting bigger in a retailer’s armory than being trusted. Trust can take many different forms, for example, ensuring that products are well stocked or that sales items truly are on sale and not some form of fake discounting. But in today’s transparent society, consumers expect even more; you know, things like fair trade and being on the right side of human rights issues. In “The Art of Being Chosen,” Paul Charron, former chairman and chief executive officer of Liz Claiborne, explained how working closely with the White House Apparel Industry Partnership to ensure workers’ rights gave Liz Claiborne customers a reason to trust the retailer and choose Claiborne over a competitor when all other things are equal.
 
3. They know who their most important customer is…their staff.
Or, to put it another way, a happy workforce is a happy customer. But how does a retailer make sure employees are happy? Paramount, says Butler, is giving employees a feeling of belonging. The staff needs to know that they are making valuable contributions to a retailer’s success; doing that correctly can transform a business. Or, as Harold Schultz of Starbuck’s put it, “we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business selling coffee.”
 
Treating employees right takes many forms. As Mike Gould, chief executive of Bloomingdale’s, noted, “we don’t train our employees—that’s for animals. We educate them.”
 
4. They have visionary thinking.
By that, Butler isn’t referring to some mission statement that gets written once, locked away and never looked at again. No, he’s talking about the day-to-day stuff that excites customers and keeps them coming back for more.
 
Once a successful retailer understands just how tenuous a hold he has on his customers, he will scour the globe in search of ways to excite them. For example, over the years, The Robinsons Group of Singapore had fallen from a prestige department store to a deep discounter. But when John Cheston became CEO in 2004, he quickly realized that “you can only motivate by price for so long—not forever.”
 
At first, Robinsons took a big hit on its numbers. But with backing of its staff (see secret 3), the retailer climbed all the way back to the top.
 
5. They celebrate and revere the power of ideas.
Creative thought excites the best retail leaders. And all of them have in place an effective process to turn those ideas into reality. But in order to work, ideas must be memorable. Think SUCCES:
• Simplicity
• Unexpectedness
• Concreteness
• Credibility
• Emotions
• Stories

A perfect example of this is concept was Saks Fifth Avenue obtaining a zip code for its eighth floor shoe department: 10022-SHOE. After all, if Steve Sadove could convince the U.S. Government to think out-of-the-box, imagine how he could persuade consumers?
 
6. The world’s top retailer bosses are all the same—they want to be different!
The most effective way to be remembered is to be different or, as Butler notes, “you can’t be chosen if you’re not remembered.”

And for Philippe Giard, managing director at A.S. Watson Group, that means trying to be all things to all people via a multi-format model.

“One-size-fits-all is not the future,” he insisted. “It doesn’t cater to the rapidly changing needs of modern customers, particularly the complexity of needs in Asia.” No wonder why Watson stores range in size from 1,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet and include convenience stores, specialty supermarkets and megastores—and they’re selling products from 120 countries in an effort to reflect local tastes and aspirations.
 
With the rise of the conservative consumer in established markets and the new consumer in emerging markets, it’s more important than ever to be among the chosen few. Butler’s book provides a blueprint for companies trying to do just that.
 
More info: www.mb2000.com
  • Slow & Steady

    Slow & Steady

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||December 1, 2016
    In a tumultuous environment, steady gains posted in the industrial and institutional cleaning sector are welcomed.

  • The World Comes to Orlando

    The World Comes to Orlando

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||December 1, 2016
    More than 1,600 chemists traveled to Florida for the IFSCC Congress

  • The Plex  Phenomenon

    The Plex Phenomenon

    Denise Costrini, Croda North America||December 1, 2016
    Croda details the hair-protecting qualities of bond multipliers and the company’s new bond-building formulation system.

  • Patent Activity: Colgate-Palmolive

    Patent Activity: Colgate-Palmolive

    December 6, 2016
    New oral care compositions, the use of radish root ferment filtrate in a cleanser and more.

  • Sparkle & Shine

    Sparkle & Shine

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||November 21, 2016
    Glam packaging and upscale scent combos are big at Yankee Candle for Holiday 2016.

  • Cos Bar: Turning 40 and Hitting Fast Forward

    Cos Bar: Turning 40 and Hitting Fast Forward

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||November 21, 2016
    With a recent investor infusion, a new CEO and rebranding effort underway, this luxury beauty retailer has big plans.

  • Organic Matter

    Organic Matter

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||November 14, 2016
    FTC and USDA hold a public roundtable to discuss consumers’ perception of organic claims.

  • Help for Up Above

    Help for Up Above

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||November 14, 2016
    A brand from Down Under is touting a new formulation for what’s missing on top.

  • Skin Care Sensation

    Skin Care Sensation

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||November 7, 2016
    Circ Cell aims to be unique with formulations that uphold skin tone.

  • Get Ready, ‘Cause Here it Comes…

    Get Ready, ‘Cause Here it Comes…

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||November 1, 2016
    Skinphonic is a new brand created with a team of beauty experts and fronted by singer Smokey Robinson.

  • Hair for Me!

    Hair for Me!

    October 31, 2016
    Function of Beauty fulfills the promise of personalization in the beauty space—one bottle at a time.

  • A Facial Bar Grows in Brooklyn

    A Facial Bar Grows in Brooklyn

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||October 24, 2016
    With three doors in Canada, Blitz Facial Bar opens its first US location in one of the hippest areas of New York.

  • Free and Clear

    Free and Clear

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||October 17, 2016
    OY-L aims for zero-chemical skin care.

  • Coming Clean on a Host of Issues

    Coming Clean on a Host of Issues

    October 17, 2016
    Cleaning Products Conference is set for Nov. 9-11, 2016 in Washington DC.

  • Let the Magic Begin!

    Let the Magic Begin!

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||October 10, 2016
    IFSCC Congress gets underway at Walt Disney World this month.

  • Ogee Opens for Business

    Ogee Opens for Business

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||October 10, 2016
    Banking on the power of jojoba oil, a Vermont-based start-up is the newest player in organic luxury skin care.

  • P&G’s Latest Patents

    P&G’s Latest Patents

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||October 10, 2016
    A look at recent patent and IP related news from the biggest household and personal care player in the US.

  • A Cosmetic Armor Against Pollution

    A Cosmetic Armor Against Pollution

    Julia Comas, Cristina Davi, Elena Canadas, Laia Gonzalez, Raquel Delgado, Lipotec SAU||October 3, 2016
    Lipotec’s Pollushield creates a barrier between skin and pollutants and boosts the antioxidative potential of skin.

  • Cosmetic Chemists Head to Orlando Next Month

    Cosmetic Chemists Head to Orlando Next Month

    September 26, 2016
    Organizing Chair Guy Padulo explains why you should attend the IFSCC Congress.

  • Restoring Rembrandt

    Restoring Rembrandt

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||September 26, 2016
    Ranir LLC has acquired Rembrandt, an iconic name in teeth whitening, and plans to make it a staple in the value segment.

  • Active Agents

    Active Agents

    September 19, 2016
    On the surface, surfactants may seem staid, but the market, and the supplier activity driving it, is bubbling.

  • Jam On It!

    Jam On It!

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||September 19, 2016
    Jamberry sees success in artsy nail accessories.

  • Expanding Erbaviva

    Expanding Erbaviva

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||September 13, 2016
    A farm-to-bottle organic brand celebrates its 20th anniversary with a new look, new products and plans to expand in the US.

  • Vintage Glamour Rules the Runways at NYFW

    Vintage Glamour Rules the Runways at NYFW

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||September 12, 2016
    A look at trends in cosmetics and hairstyling.

  • Rock n Roll

    Rock n Roll

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||September 6, 2016
    A new sunscreen applicator is slowly making noise in the industry.

  • Lauder’s Latest Patents

    Lauder’s Latest Patents

    September 1, 2016
    A composition with NIR light emitting material, a skin care device and more awarded to this beauty business giant.

  • ‘Lash’-ing Out!

    ‘Lash’-ing Out!

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||August 29, 2016
    All eyes are on Lash Star Beauty, a lash-centric beauty brand that recently made its QVC debut.

  • Long Term Sustainability In the Nonwovens Market

    Long Term Sustainability In the Nonwovens Market

    August 23, 2016
    Learn more at Cleaning Products USA, Nov. 9-11, 2016