Posted: 23 August 2017
When the retail world is struggling, we look to leaders to guide us. Leaders aren't just managers or cheerleaders. They are the gurus of their trade. They understand the flow of business from top-level decisions down to a single transaction.
Just who are these retail gurus in the UK? They come from a variety of backgrounds, but each has unique ideas on the future direction of the retail market.
In May 2011, celebrity retail guru Mary Portas was tasked by Prime Minister David Cameron with saving High Street shops. She quickly went to work, using her vast experience across the retail spectrum. In December of the same year, she published The Portas Review, outlining a series of recommendations to "put the heart back into the centre of our High Streets."
Her 28 recommendations were well-received. They aimed to shift the focus of retail shops to better fit the experience-driven and ethical demands of younger generations. In recent years, she has developed a larger methodology of these recommendations. She continues to promote personalisation and individualisation in the shopping experience.
What Portas espouses is an authenticity that many feel the retail world has lost. Her suggestions rely on retailers to see a bigger picture. No longer is it enough to just make the sale. Organic growth requires a commitment to providing customers an experience.
She then put that into motion by following her own recommendation and opening a series of pop-up shops. Mary's Living & Giving Shop specifically focuses on charity, and all proceeds go to Save the Children.
So this is how far we have come. My Marys Living and Giving shop has 22 shops and now we open a… https://t.co/JCWVrDHIy1
— Mary Portas (@maryportas) August 7, 2017
If anyone knows something about experience, it's Sophie Mirman. She originally founded Sock Shop in 1983 after a bad experience wandering around town looking for a pair of cream-coloured tights. She was stunned that such a daily necessity was not more readily available in variety.
She and her husband then opened Trotters in 1990 after another frustrating shopping experience. While her 18-month old son showed his displeasure at the prospect of getting a haircut, her 3-year old found a pair of boots that she absolutely loved. And the store didn't have them in her size.
What Mirman took from these situations was the idea of building and growing a business by creating an experience. The purpose of Trotters is not to sell children's clothing, but to be an enjoyable experience for children to shop. The sales are simply a by-product of that experience.
Laury found herself in a stressful situation when she was selected to take over as chief executive of Kingfisher in 2015. The company had faced some hardship, but Laury knew it would take much more than a fresh face in the big chair. In Laury's view, they needed a fresh take altogether, stating that "You need to reinvent yourself or you’re going to die."
Her 5-year plan was called the One Kingfisher plan. This was a massive undertaking to unify a global retailer into a single vision. The unification came from her understanding of customers. She notes that customer needs in home improvement are more similar than different.
"It’s not about understanding DIY, it’s about understanding how people live, what they need in their homes and how that is evolving. Previously, the customer was not enough at the heart of it."
These retail gurus come from a range of personal and professional experiences. They come from different retail sectors. They even come from different countries. Yet they seem to all reach the same conclusion. The future of brick and mortar retail is not so much about the best prices or the largest selection. It's about creating an engaging and memorable experience for your shoppers.
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