Patrick Woodall, Chief executive of retail specialist Pragma Consulting.
Commentators are fond of simplifying the reasons for over- and underperformance in retailing. This makes for good headlines but doesn’t really tell the whole story.
Pundits often talk of the market ‘polarising’ into premium and value, with mid-market retailers being squeezed. But in reality there are many instances of great retailers that address the broader market and deliver consistently superior performance year in, year out.
River Island is a fine example of a fashion retailer that really does pitch class and sell mass.
The secret of success is three-pronged: good management, clear and relevant consumer proposition, and brilliant execution. Cath Kidston, for example, ticks all these boxes: a superbly thought through lifestyle brand offered across a wide variety of categories, with clever UK and international distribution through wholesale, retail and online channels.
Consumers love its recognisable prints, practical products and accessible price points - all wrapped in an emotional brand proposition that provides a warm glow of nostalgia in an uncertain world.
In our work we find that four key factors sort the wheat from the chaff. These are objective and informed customer knowledge, a clear brand framework, a profound understanding of the channels customers can use wherever and whenever they want to shop, and superior proposition, execution and delivery through the right channel.
Old retail used to be all ‘location, location, location’. New retail is all ‘relevance, relevance, relevance’.
A brand needs to really engage its target consumer, have a channel strategy that responds to consumers right now and develop customer relationship management that makes shoppers believe they mean more to the brand than anyone else.