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
blog comments powered by Disqus
  • Sustainability is Omnipresent

    Sustainability is Omnipresent

    Christine Esposito , Associate Editor||July 1, 2016
    Industry stakeholders convene in New York City for Organic Monitor’s annual event

  • Perceived Perfection

    Perceived Perfection

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||July 1, 2016
    From primers to pressed powders, facial cosmetics help create the illusion of a flawless complexion.

  • Preserve & Serve

    Preserve & Serve

    Melissa Meisel , Associate Editor||July 1, 2016
    Suppliers with innovative preservatives provide staying power for formulations.

  • Pushin’ the Cushion

    Pushin’ the Cushion

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||July 26, 2016
    AmorePacific, the creator of the cushion compact, continues to improve its unique product.

  • Cozy Makes a Splash

    Cozy Makes a Splash

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||July 25, 2016
    Expands reach in CVS and introduces new collection.

  • Senior Skin Care

    Senior Skin Care

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||July 19, 2016
    McCord Research and Product Quest Manufacturing roll out new hospital-grade skin care kits for seniors to use at home.

  • Naterra Expands Tree Hut Range

    Naterra Expands Tree Hut Range

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||July 18, 2016
    New ‘Bare’ collection is out now.

  • An Antioxidant Arsenal

    An Antioxidant Arsenal

    July 11, 2016
    BioRewind is Dermarché Labs' new anti-aging regimen that delivers broad-spectrum antioxidant protection against free radicals

  • Enter Éclair

    Enter Éclair

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||July 5, 2016
    A new naturals line rolls out in Rite Aid stores nationwide.

  • Patent Update

    Patent Update

    June 30, 2016
    J&J's anti-aging patent, LVMH and cannabis essential oil, transdermal botulinum toxins and more in recent patent news.

  • Start Stuffing The Ballot Box (Again)!

    Start Stuffing The Ballot Box (Again)!

    June 28, 2016
    Vote on the finalists in Happi's reader's choice Anti-Aging Product of the Year contest!

  • What

    What's Next for the UK?

    Sarah Boumphrey, Euromonitor International||June 27, 2016
    Euromonitor weighs in on how Brexit could impact consumer product companies.

  • The Future of Innovation

    The Future of Innovation

    Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor||June 27, 2016
    Fashion Institute of Technology graduate students tackle a far-reaching topic for their Capstone project.

  • Henkel Grabs the Sun

    Henkel Grabs the Sun

    Ian Bell, Euromonitor International||June 24, 2016
    Euromonitor's Ian Bell on the impact the purchase will have on the US detergent industry.

  • To The Max

    To The Max

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||June 20, 2016
    Velvet 59 is on the rise at locations like Ricky’s NYC.

  • Problems for Preservatives

    Problems for Preservatives

    June 20, 2016
    David Steinberg details the issues surrounding this critical ingredient category.

  • You’re So Sensitive!

    You’re So Sensitive!

    June 13, 2016
    P&G teaches dermatologists a thing or two about common skin maladies—and some common household chores to boot!

  • Voyage to Better Skin

    Voyage to Better Skin

    June 13, 2016
    Skin Inc. rolls out new light-based device to US market.

  • Patent Update

    Patent Update

    June 9, 2016
    Avon’s use of melicope extract, skin care with SPF and chicory root, microdermabrasion cream and more in recent patents.

  • What’s New at Bath & Body Works?

    What’s New at Bath & Body Works?

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||June 6, 2016
    Tropical scents are leading the way this season so far.

  • Exploring Green in Vegas

    Exploring Green in Vegas

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||June 6, 2016
    Cosmoprof North America sets the stage for brands dedicated to the growing and evolving eco-friendly beauty space.

  • We

    We're Surrounded!

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||May 30, 2016
    Industry experts explain the important role that the skin microbiome plays in human health.

  • Luxury Re-Coded

    Luxury Re-Coded

    Nancy Jeffries, Online Editor||May 25, 2016
    Consumers have new expectations for beauty.

  • Big Business at Beiersdorf

    Big Business at Beiersdorf

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||May 23, 2016
    VP of marketing shares info on winning products and more.

  • Procter Reels in Doctors

    Procter Reels in Doctors

    May 16, 2016
    The Procter & Gamble stand was abuzz during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.

  • If You’re Going to San Francisco…

    If You’re Going to San Francisco…

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||May 13, 2016
    Be sure to contact the Bay Area Beauty Association.

  • Representatives Connect

    Representatives Connect

    Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor||May 8, 2016
    Re:Beauty offers a new direct sales opportunity.

  • Kitchen Counter Cosmetics

    Kitchen Counter Cosmetics

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||May 2, 2016
    LOLI box marks the convergence of natural and organic ingredients, subscription service and DIY cosmetic chemistry.