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The customer will always be king

Caroline Nodder

I had a fascinating chat this week with someone who has worked in the fashion retail industry for more than 20 years.

I had a fascinating chat this week with someone who has worked in the fashion retail industry for more than 20 years. Her background at some of the biggest names on the high street gives her the kind of unique insight that is invaluable to journalists covering the sector as we do on Drapers, and I must say I took full advantage of the opportunity to pick her brains on the current trading environment. Among her key observations was the controversial view that product is not king – the customer is.

Her take on what’s wrong with retail right now is that those in the boardroom are preoccupied by either product or bank account, and have lost track of the customer, their experience, and what their perception of the retail brand is. Peacocks, she asserted, might have a few nice frocks, but go into one of its shops and you wouldn’t want to pay what it is asking for them because the store experience doesn’t match the tag, and in many cases the stores were so unappealing from the outside that customers are put off before they even cross the threshold.

She cited one of her early mentors, a female board director, who spent an hour pondering the hinges on the doors in the female changing rooms to check they would be user-friendly enough for women with buggies. Call her a pedant if you like, but that’s a level of detail I imagine few of her boardroom counterparts can attest to in 2012.

As a wise man once said, it takes years to earn customer loyalty and just seconds to lose it.

We are midway through the Drapers seasonal fashion specials, with Menswear last week and Streetwear this week. Womenswear will be out next week and Footwear & Accessories on February 24. We really value your feedback on our biggest issues of the year so please let me know what you think at caroline.nodder@emap.com.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Something EWM should be mindful of!

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  • Boardrooms as a whole are idealist and totally unrealistic with their aims because many have never worked in retail, therefore they have little idea of what happens on the shop floor, i.e the needs and desires of the customer, who as mentioned, is King.

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