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Being a good retailer does not make you a brand

It has always surprised me how often the word “brand” is bandied around when all people do is sell things.

A brand has to be associated with a set of values and emotions, as well as an easily recognisable logo. Mary Portas calls this “Emotional Connectivity” and rightly says that this is created by fashion tribes, those who follow trends.

If a brand doesn’t invest in this and attempt to relate to its tribe then it means nothing. That is if they even truly know who their tribe is. Next time you walk down the high street try and work out what each brand means to you and you’ll soon realise that there aren’t many good ones.

I was in Carnaby Street, London, and paid a visit to Howies, the surfy outdoorsy brand from Wales who specialise in looking after the environment and have recently acquired investment from Timberland. When they first opened, I had wandered in only to find the store staff all sitting quietly in the corner reading books.

They were ready to help, but kind of leaving me to it. On paper it shouldn’t work, but it really did. A relaxed, no pressure environment where the staff didn’t have to “look busy.”

Last week when I went in, I noticed a sink and a sign saying I could fill up my water bottle. The window display was dedicated to highlighting global water shortages and there was a large perspex box in the middle where you could leave your bottle for recycling. What makes this utterly brilliant, aside from the convenience and goodwill generated from the tap, is that it fitted in with the brand ethics and was just pitched perfectly.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Anonymous

    Most good retailers become brands - I think River Island and Topshop are both brands. River especially really understands its customer and to do that you have to subscribe to the "tribe" theory - making trends appropriate for your tribe and designing your store fit to support, reflect and even secure that position you have with your customers. Other retailers like New Look seem to be investing more in trying to become brands with new marketing and store fits and celebrity tie ups. Not easy to do convincingly.
    Howies is a great concept. This is the only way to do "green" from a marketing perspective. You have to look genuine and not preach. That's a fine balance.

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