Never forget what it is like being on the other side of the door.

Monday, 16. August 2010

Every step that you take on the ladder of career development, takes you further away from the coalface and the day-to-day interactions that shape the company you work for. When I was just starting out as a junior manager faced with that daunting task of managing employees for the first time, I was given a piece of advice by my then Managing Director, which I have never forgotten.

He told me to never forget what it is like being on the other side of the door. When I asked him what he meant he explained that as you develop as a manager, you gain knowledge and therefore an element of power, and sometimes you forget how this can affect other people. A lot of managers forget how curious they were before they knew what happened in the meetings that go on behind closed doors. His example taught me to be aware that an unscheduled management meeting can worry employees, that a harmless comment can set the rumour mill running and that a seemingly small problem to you can be very big to one of your employees.

The multi-faceted requirements of being a modern manager mean that it’s very easy to become absorbed by the things that you are dealing with. Building on his advice, I have always tried to make sure that I take time out and “walk the floor”. Talking to your employees will give you a very good indication of the health of your company – you may not like what they say, but listen and encourage all your managers to do the same. Try and remove sources of worry for people, be open about the purpose of meetings and if you have to have a crisis meeting – try and do it off-site. There’s nothing worse for employees than seeing a stream of worried looking managers coming out of a meeting room – think how you would have felt if you were the onlooker to this scene – when you were on the other side of the door. As business leaders we all have to deal with confidential and worrying issues at times, as well as difficult situations. There are also times when we have to take actions that affect our employees, but the way that we handle them can make a huge difference to all concerned.

Most businesses are hugely reliant on inputs from the people that work there. All too often we recognise the input that we ourselves put in, but don’t recognise that actually we’re part of a team. High performing teams know what their aims are and recognise the effects that individual actions have on the overall team output. Learn to recognise how you work as Manager and then more importantly, put yourself on the other side of the door and think about how the way that you work affects your employees. You may think that you’re approachable, but are you really? If you dare to challenge yourself to find out, I think that you, like me, will be surprised by what you find…

The finishing touches…

Monday, 2. August 2010

Have you ever been working really hard on something and it’s taking ages to come to fruition?  Sometimes we get so caught up in the actual task that we’re concentrating on that we forget to make sure that the whole picture works.  A classic example of this is working to pull a new season collection together and your point of sale doesn’t support it and tell your customers about why it is so fabulous. Another example is working really hard on a new interior shop-fit and not making sure that your frontage is clean and tidy!  In these examples, what’s happened is that we’ve worked really hard on the bits we’ve been tasked to do and the peripherary items let us down.  To this end, it’s really important to remember that your customer doesn’t come in and just look at the bit you’re working on – they see the whole picture, and that’s in a truly 3D fashion – they want things to make sense and they haven’t got the benefit of your background knowledge.  They will be reacting to the product, the fit and most importantly the service – and they want it all to make sense to them, and they’re more likely to become loyal customers if it does.

A good way to make sure that you do this is to allocate some time within the project to stand back from it and look at what you’re trying to achieve.  You can then consider it within the totality of everything going on around it and make sure it fits and makes sense, and if you can, get an unconnected person to look at it with you – that way you can test out the likely response of your customers.  If there are other elements that let the current project down, then make sure that you address them as well.

The last thing to remember, especially if you’re working on a large project, is that it’s often one of the smaller tasks at the end that brings it all together and makes a difference that is disproportionate to the cost and time you spend on that small element, so don’t lose heart on the way!

A few things that caught my eye…

Wednesday, 21. July 2010

When you’re working in retail, it’s really important to listen to your customers and to keep a watching brief on the world around you. With ever more discerning customers, and increasing competition, it’s no longer good enough to keep on offering “same-old, same-old”, and to that end I often wile away an hour or two just browsing around to look for inspiration and ideas. Every now and again, I see something that really makes me go “Wow!” and even if it’s not directly relevant, it can still feed into my thoughts and ideas for the future.
I thought you might be interested to see a couple of the ones that I’ve loved lately – and I’d be really interested to hear your comments too:-

Firstly, at the beginning of the year I heard about Anthroplogie, a new arrival in London from the US – it’s on Regent Street and it’s well worth a visit if you get the chance. You can see the website at, it’s a good site, but I think that the shop is much better. In an earlier blog I talked about the trends for the retail experience and how customers expect more these days. In my humble opinion, the Anthropologie store is showcasing the future of retailing – a well thought out layout, eclectic and inspirational products, display props that look like they could be in your home and an interior that amuses as well as delivering the unexpected. From a huge narwhal in the basement, to a plant wall fed with rainwater from the roof, shopping there was an experience and I want to go back, just to see how it’s moved on. Oh, and in the midst of all of this, they haven’t overlooked one of the most important things – service, my purchases were wrapped and presented with a smile – what a great shop.

Now on to one I’ve read about, but I haven’t actually visited so I’d love to hear from someone who has. It’s a fine perfumery which has opened in Mayfair and I saw a review about it on Daily Candy , there’s a photo on there if you want to have a look. They’ve managed to create a buzz about their new store through the use of innovative and interactive interiors, a refreshing change for a perfumery. Their website is at – a handy tip is that you need to click on one of the blobs to navigate through the site – great design but not as user friendly as it could be.

I realise that these are both high end stores, but, in my opinion, these stores are the next distillation down from the “haute couture” style of shopfits, so there will be a ripple effect into more mainstream retailing as well – so it’s something we should all be thinking about.

Over to you then…any comments on my thoughts or nominations of your own???

Models are for breaking…

Wednesday, 16. June 2010

I was sent this article in a Linked in Group Facebook and like it so much, I went to and read some more. Judy Winslow is a “Brandologist” and has got some interesting things to say – thanks Judy!!

Models are for breaking
Lately I’ve been speaking to a number of people who are a bit, well, trapped by their own thoughts and preconceived notions. It’s alarming how so many fall into this trap, and why I’m bringing it to you today.

The interesting thing about this phenomena, is that most of us are aware that we practice some form of limited thinking in their lives, but almost all of us leave out this important area. OR we visit here once, and never again. The first time I discovered this for myself it was a total surprise, even though I had dreamt of the possibility. I’d like to invite you to benefit now, rather than wait.

Here’s something to consider straight out: The business model you are working with is outdated. Except for a few of us, we’re out there doing ‘it’ the way its always been done, yet wanting different results, feeling a bit stifled without knowing why, and wondering what else there is that could make the days more enjoyable, with greater financial rewards.

Rarely though do we look at the business model. Doctors ‘do it’ in a particular way. So do other healers, CPA’s, or lawyers. But honestly, it’s likely you are too. Think about that for a moment. Are you following in someone else’s footsteps or are you blazing your own trail?

How about considering these examples to get your fired up for this concept:

•McDonalds’ borrowed the idea of drive up windows from banking. Now you can see drive-up dry cleaners, liquor stores and pharmacies. What can you borrow from another industry?
•1-800-FLOWERS was of the first to extend that type of service to a perishable product, to be sold to the masses. Now you can get steaks, lobsters, almost anything via the mail, and they’re each more expensive than the average. Can you use anything from those models for your business?
•Many businesses are using virtual offices to allow for freedom and the ability to reach more people. Can you incorporate tele-classes or webinars to reach across the globe or across town? You may be more portable than you realize.
How about creating an upper level of service? Doctors began offering ‘Concierge’ services, and you likely can too. A massage therapist, attorney, coach or comedy club, each has that ability.
Consider how you can re-visit your business model for a greater reach, the ability to bring your gifts to a larger audience, and the opportunity for additional revenue streams.


More about J. Winslow, a.k.a. the Brandologist can be found at

Lifestyle vs Retail

Wednesday, 9. June 2010

Today’s blog is a guest blog by Andrew Ransford of Hiho Silver – retailers of exclusive silver jewellery with a country lifestyle thrown in – – thanks Andrew!!

Over the past few years we have seen the rise of the Lifestyle retailer with clothing companies like Fat Face, White stuff and Boden leading the charge. Is now the time that we should look to the way in which these “new retailers” have grown to see if there is an opportunity to add their techniques to boost retail sales for brands that don’t sell clothes? There are some very simple things to look at; does your product appeal to a group of people that could be clearly identified by what they buy and from whom, or, are they after the best price, nothing else? If you know your customer would also go on to shop from other like- minded businesses and aspire to a lifestyle involving your product, then you could be ready to look at the relevancy of lifestyle retailing. There are no real secrets to this, apart from really understanding your customer before you can proceed, making sure that it is real and relevant to your business – and then add in some help from people who understand “Lifestyle marketing”. The journey can be a really rewarding experience not only for individuals, but also for the bottom line.

Experience versus Ease?

Monday, 7. June 2010

Retail WeekRecent press reports show a continuing upwards trend towards shopping online and it’s producing some interesting responses from retailers. Competition in any market can change the shape of the offering, an increase in the number of online retailers has led to an improvement in the online shopping experience – but it’s also driving offline retailers to up their game.

To understand this, we need to think about the different types of shoppers and what they’re looking for. A lot of people these days are experience-hungry and time-poor, so when they need something the internet now presents a quick and convenient way to access what they need – improved broadband speeds and better deliveries mean that choosing a few items and sending back the ones we don’t need is a viable, and easy, option. So, unlike a few years ago, the Saturday shopping trip is no longer obligatory and when consumers do make the effort, they’re expecting something they can’t get from shopping online.

The add-value benefits offline retailers can give are tactile and experience based – the chance to look at and feel physical products, to meet friends and to engaage with surroundings.  If retailers can provide these opportunities, then consumers have a compelling reason to shop on the High Street and a great customer service experience and an engaging shop environment will only add to that – encouraging them to return and shop more.

Speakers at the Retail Week conference were speaking of high-end florists in Milan, who are selling from a shop fitted out to feel like being in a garden – and you wander around and pick the flowers you want to buy.  This is obviously experiential and, admittedly, very high end – but just like catwalk fashion, it will diffuse into the High Street in a less exaggerated form.  In fact, my favourite physical shop of the moment is Anthropologie, based on Regent Street in London - if you get the chance, go and have a look and be wowed by the innovative shopfit – ranging from a three-storey plant wall – watered with rain from the roof – through to recycled chandeliers and some really innovative product displays. If you do go – let me know what you think!

China – a prime target for export of luxury goods?

Friday, 4. June 2010

Great post from Retail Jeweller below – you can read the full article here.

UK Trade & InvestmentIf you are interested in exporting for the first time, the UK Trade & Investment site is a great resource and you may find that there are assisted funding places available on Trade Missions to the country you are interested in. Find out more here.

Recent study finds increase of Chinese consumers purchasing luxury items in UK
3 June 2010 | By Kelly Nelson, Erin Hendry

A recent study carried out by FDKG, a consultancy firm that helps UK luxury goods businesses to reach out to the Asian market, has found that Chinese consumers now outnumber Russian consumers for luxury goods based on shopping trends in Mayfair boutiques.

The study found that Chinese are now the most frequent visitors to luxury goods retailers in front of US and Japanese consumers. “With UK economic growth likely to be fragile for some time, there are huge opportunities available for the businesses that have the wherewithal to enter this incredibly lucrative market,” said Ken Grant, managing director of FDKG.

The study also gathered a sample of around 800 wealthy Chinese businessmen and women earning on average 1,000,000 RMB a year (£100,000) and asked them questions on topics such as personal spending. They found that among the group, Rolex was chosen as the most popular of 34 luxury watch brands given as options to choose from.

“Watches are a very popular gift in China, and the top article to show off wealth for men,” said Grant.

Milena Kaminska, deputy manager at Rolex Boutique on Bond Street, said that although the Chinese consumers purchase a wide variety of items, the most popular are the stainless steel sports model watches.

“The Chinese customers really like famous brands, such as Louis Vuitton,” she said. “They also like Rolex because it is popular around the world.”

According to the study, the Chinese economy is growing at 9% each year, and jewellery has definitely been a luxury good that these wealthy consumers have shown interest in.

“Chinese high net worth consumers still want to show off that they have money, so jewellery is a powerful means of doing so,” said Grant. “Men are the holders of the purse strings in China, so they are the ones more likely to be buying, all be it for their wife or girlfriend.” brings us the latest trend in digital and real world convergence

Thursday, 3. June 2010 is an excellent resource and the weekly newsletter is an great source of cutting edge, wacky and sometimes downright weird ideas! I’m a great believer that being aware of what’s going on around you is an important part of your business development, so scanning relevant news sources can only be a good thing.

We’ve already seen a few uses of interactive technology in bars—both at the Adour Wine Bar in New York and in iBar installations around the globe—but until recently, we hadn’t yet come across a bar that incorporates an online component in its patrons’ interactions. That’s exactly what South Africa’s MiWorld does, however, with a website, a digital wall and touchscreen tables that facilitate both digital and real-world conversation.

To participate in MiWorld, consumers must be invited and given a secret code, which allows them to register online. Then, when they’re ready to head out, they can choose one of two bricks-and-mortar locations in Johannesburg: MiBar Martini, a contemporary cocktail bar in the Design District of Rosebank, or MiLounge Martini, a sophisticated cocktail, champagne and wine bar with a lounge atmosphere in Melrose’s Blu Bird Shopping Centre. In August, a third option—MiCafe—will launch in Rosebank, and there are occasional pop-up “MiEvents” at varying locations as well. Whichever locale they choose, members must first log in at the door. Then, once inside, they can order off the interactive MiTables, e-chat with patrons at neighbouring tables and even different MiLocations, sign into Facebook, view the menu and access the MiWorld network to view exclusive content and special offers. MiWorld is the brainchild of South African LiquidChefs.

We’ve been writing about what our sister site calls the off=on trend for a while now, but this is surely one of the clearest illustrations we’ve seen. Hospitality entrepreneurs around the globe: time to infuse some online oxygen into your own offerings?


This article was originally posted here

Spotted by: Jordan Wainer

Is age really a bad thing?

Sunday, 16. May 2010

Snap Shop

I came across this thought-provoking blog entry on snap-shop. It got me thinking about our own Britishness, and how we are so determined to stick with our roots. But when does your favourite store actually start to become old-fashioned, and is a company established 100 years ago really any better than a new one? Is it just sentimentality that makes us stick with our old-favourites?

Growing Old Gracefully

Age. Sometimes having lots of it is good – think cheese, whiskey, doctors (no one wants a young doctor), and sometimes its bad – old cars, for example, are quite unreliable.

When it comes to retailing, I guess the jury is still out on whether age really matters; take Woolworths, 100 years of experience couldn’t save them. People were fond of them, sure, most of us had grown up stealing pick n mix from the local Woolies*, but fondness doesn’t pay the bills.

On the flip side there’s ASOS, just ten years old and turning over £165m. And catering to the most fickle market of them all; youth.

So, is it a big deal? Probably not to most. Knowing that Forfars has been baking since the 1500’s isn’t going to influence me when purchasing a pasty, and I won’t be going to D&A over Specsavers purely based on their ‘oldest opticians’ boasts, but it does provide some comfort to see ‘old faithfuls’ when visiting an unknown town or city.

I sometimes wonder if, in ten years’ time, there will be any grandma and grandad retailers left on the high street at all. As companies get taken over, department stores get purchased and renamed, and others simply fail to move with the times only to disappear, more of the old gets pushed out and more of the new comes stomping its big noisy neon feet in.

Life is moving quickly and trends have become fads – is the key to the future keeping things fresh and new, or will our inability to incubate brand loyalty encourage the manufacture of poor quality, throwaway products? And will we become ‘less British’?!

These things have to be considered. They should be considered. When you dismiss M&S as too ‘fuddy duddy’ and nip on over to Superdry, are you destroying English heritage or are you creating new?

I’m not sure, but I don’t see many retailers striving gain for loyalty; it seems like ‘sell, sell, sell’ to me, and to hell with longevity. Keeping things new and interesting isn’t bad, not at all, but it would be a shame to keep losing traditions, bit by bit.

Consumers and context – the difference it can make…

Friday, 30. April 2010

business21cI’ve just read a great blog post by Professor Timothy M Devinney, who has been studying ethical consumers and their buying choices in different contexts. He thinks that the idea that people will change the world through their actions, is hopelessly naive. But that doesn’t mean corporations can’t view the world through ethical lenses. In fact, marketers and strategists need to know much more about their customers’ ethical preferences.

Professor Devinney set up an interesting experiment relating to coffee buying which produced results which seem to show that the context in which the message is presented has a strong effect on consumer behaviour. I’ve reproduced an exceprt from Professor Devinney’s blog below which outlines the experiment (you can read the whole article here )

Fair trade coffee, sir? (Extract from original article by Professor Devinney)

“One experiment we undertook in investigating whether or not the ethical consumer exists took place at a coffee shop in central Sydney over a period of several weeks.

This coffee shop displayed a large and prominent sign indicating the products available, their prices and active specials. To this we added, quite obtrusively, another special, indicating: We have Fair Trade coffee! No extra charge. Just ask.

Unprompted, with only the sign to notify them of the availability of the ‘ethical’ alternative, less than one percent of customers bothered to ask for Fair Trade coffee, even though it was free.

When we opted for the McDonald’s strategy – prompting customers with a reminder that the ‘ethical’ alternative was available – the number of customers opting for the Fair Trade option rose to 30 percent.
We then went a step further and took the customer’s privacy away: each time the clerk prompted a customer with the Fair Trade option, we ensured there was someone standing next to that person at the counter. In this situation, the number of ‘ethical consumers’ rose to 70 percent.

Throughout the experiment, we gave different coloured cups to customers who indicated that they wanted the Fair Trade product. We then questioned those remaining in the coffee shop about the meaning of fair trade and what they thought they were doing by purchasing, or not purchasing, Fair Trade coffee. On the whole, we received informed and insightful answers: customers talked about fair trade; they talked about the conditions of Guatemalan farmers; they could cite many reasons why they had opted for Fair Trade coffee.

None of this meant anything, however. When a customer chose the Fair Trade alternative, his or her decision was based entirely on the context we had created; it had nothing to do with that person’s values or preferences.”

In itself this is an interesting study of ethical consumer behaviour, but it also contains some useful pointers for all retailers.

• Point of Sale materials need to be well designed and displayed in the correct context with a message which relates to the point you are trying to make. If it’s not working, it may be the way you are presenting it which is having an effect.

Verbal communication with customers is important and will have an effect on their behaviour – do your shopfloor staff realise the impact they can have on their own sales by engaging with customers?

• Socially, many of us are programmed to conform so peer group messages and marketing will have more of an effect on our consumer behaviour than flat adverts.

• If you do customer feedback surveys, then the context of their completion may have an effect on the feedback you get. Focus groups will always contain an element of “group-think”, but this is something a professional research company will be able to help you with.



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