As the fashion retail industry gets ready for Drapers Fashion Forum, some of the keynote speakers share their tactics for staying one step ahead of the customer.
Peter Ruis, managing director of international, Anthropologie
How have you upgraded your brick and mortar stores recently?
All of our new stores are different to one another, while staying true to the brand formula. We have 10 new shops in the pipeline this year and each one will develop in a number of different ways, be it local nuances, unique and creative decorations or new technology. One thing’s for sure is that our stores are never standstill – we want to give customers something new and exciting to talk about.
How does Anthropologie appeal to customers in a way that online-only businesses can’t?
Anthropologie offers a truly multi-sensory in-store experience. It engages customers in a way that ecommerce cannot. Customers visit our stores as a means to escape from the stress of day-to-day to life. We don’t offer “mission” shopping – we cater to the kind of person who comes in for a candle and leaves with a dress, four Champagne coupes and a rare vintage olive oil.
Emily Haynes, head of ideas incubation, Pentland Brands
What are your top three tips for staying relevant in today’s market?
Spend time with your customers – this will help to develop a deep understanding of who they are.
Get ideas in front of consumers quickly – prioritise speed over perfection.
Don’t be restricted by what’s made you successful in the past.
How do you come up with new ideas to engage customers?
At Pentland Brands, we run an ideas incubator programme called “Disruption Lab” where we challenge groups of people from across the business to come up with new business propositions.
Before we start generating ideas, we make sure that we understand consumers’ desires and frustrations - we encourage all staff to do this by getting out there and speaking to customers directly.
When it comes to thinking about solutions and generating new ideas, we try to not let our day-to-day expertise get in the way. We like to think outside the box and not be tied down by the decision making process, or what we think is or isn’t possible.
Victoria Suffield, founder, independent retailer The Hambledon
How can independents drive footfall in store and stand out from bigger high street retailers?
Loyal customers are independent stores’ secret weapon. We have the chance to build close relationships with our customers, which is ultimately what sets us apart from the multiples. Genuine word of mouth plays a huge part in this – it might take a while to develop, but it is absolutely invaluable when it comes to building a dedicated following.
What is the biggest challenge for bricks and mortar indie owners today?
There’s often a tendency to demonise online retail as the ultimate threat, but as a brick and mortar store owner, I think we have to embrace digital as another opportunity for sales.
For me, the immediate challenges are a little more basic: upwards only rent reviews; disproportionate business rates; Brexit and full repairing leases. More broadly, I have questions about sustainability and how it fits in with the existing retail model. I am constantly striving for growth, which means that I have to sell more, and I’m not sure how much longer this mindset can continue “responsibly” for.
Hear more from Ruis, Haynes and Suffield at the Drapers Fashion Forum at London’s County Hall on 10 October. To guarantee your spot at this unmissable event, book your ticket today at fashionforum.drapersonline.com. For sponsorship opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org