Counter Culture 6

The Performance Issue: Learn how to turnaround store performance, not in years or months… but weeks.

The Performance Issue: Learn how to turnaround store performance, not in years or months… but weeks.


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<strong>Counter</strong><br />

<strong>Culture</strong><br />

Inspiring Retail Performance ®<br />

shoptactics<br />

Cutting Edge<br />

Change is happening and retailers<br />

must deliver it...right now.<br />

Balancing Act<br />

Only by getting the basics right<br />

can retailers truly achieve success.<br />

Squeeze More<br />

Why engaging store teams is vital<br />

if strategy is to result in action.<br />

The Performance Issue<br />

Razor Sharp<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />


Special Features<br />

Contents<br />

4<br />

Focused Lens<br />

Redefining change means bringing a sense<br />

of purpose to your strategy, and taking<br />

decisive action.<br />

3<br />

Foreword<br />

7<br />

Balancing Act<br />

Only by getting the fundamentals right can<br />

retailers truly deliver commercial success.<br />

12<br />

Flag Waiving<br />

10<br />

Squeeze More<br />

Smart leaders know the power of their store<br />

teams. In challenging times, these are the<br />

people that will drive performance success.<br />

16<br />

17<br />

Comeback Kids<br />

New Waves<br />

23<br />

Frontline Battle<br />

As change becomes inevitable for many,<br />

how can embattled retailers steer a clear<br />

path to better times?<br />

18<br />

21<br />

Rebuild Fortunes<br />

Leading Ambitions<br />

Copywriters<br />

Marc Baker<br />

Kay Garrett<br />

25<br />

26<br />

Jet Set, Go!<br />

Fresh Thinking<br />

Contributors<br />

Karl McKeever karl@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Kirsty Kean kirsty@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Suzanne Tanner suzanne@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Helen Bonser helen@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Lisa Lawson lisa@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Katy Trodd katy.trodd@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Tina Emerson mail@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Guest contributors<br />

Barbara Thau (New York)<br />

Mel Hales (London)<br />

3D Illustrations<br />

Paul Harris<br />

Designers<br />

Will Mulholland<br />

Ben Morgan<br />

Luis Tew<br />

<strong>Counter</strong> <strong>Culture</strong> is published by Visual Thinking Limited, Coach House 2, Lamport<br />

Manor, Old Road, Lamport, Northamptonshire NN6 9HF. Registered no. 03583878<br />

England. All rights reserved, reproduction in whole or in part without written<br />

permission is strictly prohibited. Editorial material and opinions expressed by thirdparty<br />

contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Visual Thinking Limited.<br />

Contact Visual Thinking on +44 (0) 2080 506 028 or mail@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

27 Keeping Faith<br />

Get in touch<br />

Want to transform store<br />

performance? Send us an<br />

email (giving us brief details<br />

of your objectives and current<br />

challenges) to:<br />

mail@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Call us: +44 (0) 2080 506 028<br />

Follow Us:<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 3<br />

Foreword<br />

This issue, we’re focused on Retail Performance.<br />

Unequivocally. Definitively. 100%.<br />

“Relax. Read.<br />

Then get<br />

to work.”<br />

Let’s face facts. Retail is undergoing something akin to a blood<br />

bath, and the need for retailers to grow sales, reduce costs and<br />

target their investment is more critical than ever before. In <strong>Counter</strong><br />

<strong>Culture</strong> 6, we explore what improving performance in physical retail<br />

stores really means – in its many forms – and identify ways retailers<br />

can take action to bring about change, and fast. And I hope this<br />

issue will inspire you to start your own journey to razor-sharp retail<br />

performance.<br />

In recent times, we’ve seen too many retailers fall by the wayside,<br />

while others are showing distinct signs of breakdown. Woeful<br />

trading performances and profits slumps at Debenhams and<br />

Marks & Spencer show that even the mighty can fall. Meanwhile,<br />

Mothercare and House of Fraser are in the throes of major<br />

restructuring under the terms of their respective CVAs.<br />

Negative headlines are screaming ‘how can we save our high<br />

street?’ Even the Daily Mail has taken up arms. Of more concern<br />

is that few people are offering retailers pragmatic and realistic<br />

solutions to turn big strategy into game-changing action. Which<br />

is precisely what’s needed. Changes must be identified and<br />

implemented, and now. Hesitate too long, and you may not be around<br />

to live another day. There are many parallels with the ubiquitous<br />

Brexit. Many retailers have spent months and months talking about<br />

the ‘plan’ with no substantial action. Smoke-and-mirrors do not drive<br />

sales. Customers don’t want jam tomorrow, but jam, honey and<br />

chocolate spread today.<br />

In short, retailers are in survival mode. Which is precisely why<br />

we’ve dedicated this entire issue to the power of performance.<br />

What does success look like? It’s about going back to the basics<br />

of good retail – a simple concept that has, frankly, been lost. We<br />

examine how better looking stores can become more productive<br />

and profitable. How more logical, easier-to-shop instore layouts will<br />

build footfall, get customers spending more with every visit and give<br />

you the competitive edge. How more engaging displays and instore<br />

promotions get shoppers’ hearts racing and their wallets open. And<br />

how you can make store teams more efficient and motivated to own<br />

the change most retailers simply have to deliver moving forward.<br />

What, where and how to invest for success – avoiding the traps.<br />

Read these pages. Be inspired. Then take action<br />

Back<br />

Karl McKeever<br />

Founder & Managing Director<br />

@karlmckeever | @shoptactics<br />


The Performance Issue 4<br />

Lens<br />

Redefining change means<br />

bringing a sense of<br />

purpose to your strategy,<br />

and taking decisive action.<br />

Back<br />


Inflation<br />

Forecasted Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation in the UK from<br />

1st quarter 2017 to 1st quarter 2023.<br />

The Performance Issue 5<br />

Change is typically considered<br />

a painful experience. Just ask<br />

any retailer going through major<br />

restructuring.<br />

Data: Statista 2018<br />

But by underpinning a programme of negative<br />

change with a sense of purpose, retailers can<br />

soften the blow, if not remove the pain barrier.<br />

Whether that’s redefining retail policy, embedding<br />

new capabilities or taking a fresh approach to<br />

instore measurement and KPIs, it’s about focused<br />

intent as opposed to the non-specific rhetoric of<br />

‘transformation’.<br />

Having travelled the world to experience retail<br />

excellence, we’re often asked “what do we<br />

mean by transformation?” But the question now<br />

would be “should we be using the word at all?”<br />

Transformation is seen as long-winded, expansive<br />

and costly. We all know what we want, but the<br />

challenge is to explain how you’re actually going<br />

to deliver it. Actions need to be incisive and<br />

immediate. Real change. Right now.<br />

Results focused.<br />

IMAGE: House of Fraser is one of several retailers to recently announce CVA proposals.<br />

© House of Fraser<br />

6,000<br />

5,500<br />

5,000<br />

4,500<br />

4,000<br />

UK High Street Closures<br />

5,855 outlets closed on UK high streets in 2017,<br />

at a rate of 16 stores a day.<br />

Closures<br />

Openings<br />

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017<br />

“If this sounds<br />

disheartening,<br />

do something<br />

about it.”<br />

Plenty of retailers<br />

currently find themselves<br />

in a chrysalis-like state:<br />

no longer what they<br />

were, but not what they<br />

will be, either. To avoid<br />

this becoming a state<br />

of purgatory, they must<br />

act. Few have the luxury<br />

of waiting years, or even months, for their grand<br />

transformation to manifest itself.<br />

So how do you make retail excellence a way<br />

of life in your stores? We are seeing a growing<br />

divide between those who are enjoying success<br />

and those struggling to survive. If this sounds<br />

disheartening, do something about it. Question<br />

everything about what you’re currently doing<br />

instore. Tackle the barriers that are preventing great<br />

performance, take aim and take action. Above all,<br />

view the world from your customers’ perspectives<br />

and engage colleagues to challenge the structures,<br />

habits or inertia that may be holding you back.<br />

Data: The Local Data Company for PwC<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 6<br />

You may be one of<br />

the lucky ones who<br />

are thriving, but it’s<br />

more likely that you’re<br />

another ambition-filled<br />

retailers<br />

but confused retailer:<br />

capable of greatness,<br />

but currently falling<br />

short. So take note –<br />

this strategy makes a lot of sense (and a lot more<br />

profit). Confronting the truth is never easy. But the<br />

message is clear: you can’t keep doing more of the<br />

same – it just isn’t working.<br />

“To do more<br />

than survive,<br />

must act.”<br />

So, next time someone internally utters the word<br />

‘transformation’, ask yourself who can help you<br />

really make better possible? Don’t be surprised<br />

if the answer comes from within, recognising the<br />

need to work with others to get it out<br />

For better performance visit<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />

IMAGE: New Look has already embarked on delivering positive change instore.<br />

Moving Forward<br />

When thinking about achieving<br />

a step change in store performance, there<br />

are three common questions to ask:<br />

importantly, add the ‘why’ and ‘how’. That means taking<br />

what are often a set of complex challenges and making the<br />

solution very simple to engage those at store level and add<br />

meaningfulness. The people at the cutting edge of store<br />

operations need a clear sense of what they are being asked<br />

to do, with a sense of ownership, and the skills needed to<br />

deliver change effectively – in every store, every day.<br />

Are your current retail and VM execution<br />

policies working for you?<br />

Forget lofty transformation strategy. Clear, relevant and<br />

effective VM policy is what your stores need most. VM policy<br />

is intended to clarify the ‘what’. But many do not reflect the<br />

needs of retailers or fail to resonate with both store teams<br />

and customers. It needs to be deeply anchored in your retail<br />

operations. Do you have one? Is it right for your brand, and<br />

your customers? Is it sufficiently defined? And, crucially, is it<br />

easy to implement instore – quickly and consistently? If you<br />

can’t answer these questions with confidence, this is the first<br />

place to start. You won’t get very far without it.<br />

How can you embed change?<br />

The truth is, people are naturally resistant to change - unless<br />

there’s a clear benefit to them. That’s an issue for retailers<br />

in today’s competitive landscape, where radical change<br />

is required, where the benefits take longer to emerge.<br />

Engaging store teams is vital to make your vision for change<br />

a reality. This should go beyond just defining the ‘what’ and,<br />

How can you deliver change today?<br />

The secret to achieving an immediate upturn in<br />

performance is about knowing where to start. Having<br />

expert support from those who can identify the issues,<br />

foresee the pitfalls, and come up with workable solutions<br />

quickly is key. Costly store refurbishment programmes<br />

or a rush to technology are not, and should not, be the<br />

answer. Leaders really do need to go back to basics. A<br />

focus on retail standards, visual merchandising policy and<br />

team engagement may not seem earth-shatteringly new.<br />

Indeed, many consider these ‘gentler’ qualities of store<br />

performance as not being vital to success. And that’s<br />

where they go wrong. But it doesn’t end there. The ‘what’<br />

needs to be supported by a plan of action that provides a<br />

roadmap to success, informs capability development, and<br />

can be measured to prove the results of any changes.<br />

So, instead of simply talking transformation, ask the<br />

questions that will quickly deliver change. The results will be<br />

amazing. Find answers quickly from sources you can trust<br />

to deliver<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 7<br />

Act<br />

Only by getting the<br />

fundamentals right can<br />

retailers truly deliver<br />

commercial success.<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 8<br />

Improved Retail Standards<br />

How our work signalled better compliance across all O2 stores.<br />

Lisa Lawson<br />

Before<br />

After<br />

Senior Retail Specialist<br />

@shoptactics_ll<br />

Back to basics. Not a term many<br />

retailers embrace. Why? Because it’s<br />

not something shareholders or internal<br />

teams can get excited by, which is why<br />

they often pay it little attention.<br />

But they should.<br />

69%<br />

96%<br />

While visual merchandising has typically been thought<br />

of in terms of soft, intangible benefits, it’s time to<br />

think again. Because here is where retail success is<br />

conceived, born and reborn.<br />

“...As Nike would say,<br />

‘Just Do It’ (and as we<br />

would add, do it now).”<br />

IMAGE: The NYC store of Mansur Gavriel. It’s not just the Italian made product that demonstrate<br />

great attention to material, colour and detail.<br />

We need to revise our language in terms of what<br />

drives commercial success. Let’s forget the term<br />

‘experiential’. Similarly ‘ornamental’ design features.<br />

These won’t get shoppers buying. ‘Back<br />

to basics’ may not be sexy, but it’s a vital<br />

concept. Put simply, if a customer enters a<br />

store and standards are poor, the range is<br />

uninspiring and they can’t find the item or the<br />

size they’re looking for, they’ll leave empty<br />

handed. Essentially, better stores equal<br />

better performance and increased sales.<br />

Period.<br />

Stores need to perform commercially, like never<br />

before. Talking about transformation is futile unless<br />

words are backed up by resolute and persistent<br />

action. Prevarication kills business. Focused and<br />

determined change resurrects it.<br />

This is the time for senior leaders to boldly look folly<br />

in the eye and stand firm. Yes, investing in technology<br />

is important and has its place. But it won’t be the<br />

saviour of retail in the here and now. And right now,<br />

that’s what many retailers should be concerned<br />

about. They have to start asking ‘what can we do<br />

today to make a visible difference?’ No more future<br />

gazing... as Nike would say, ‘Just do it’ (and as we<br />

would add, do it now, and routinely).<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 9<br />

IMAGE: Nordstrom Men’s Store, NYC.<br />

Those brands that have focused efforts on a more<br />

fundamental approach to solving the essentials of<br />

store ‘look’, experience and operational standards<br />

are, unsurprisingly, those who are seeing a gamechanging<br />

performance. If your stores are struggling<br />

to perform, it’s time to address their failings with the<br />

same clarity<br />

For more information visit<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />

See It<br />

Like It<br />

Try It<br />

Buy It<br />

It sounds obvious, but if you<br />

want to sell more instore,<br />

customers first have to be<br />

able to find your products.<br />

That new must-have item<br />

being promoted by social<br />

media influencers and in<br />

store windows – can you<br />

see it instore? Both overall<br />

store layout and individual<br />

categories also have to<br />

be logical to shop, and<br />

products must be easy to<br />

find. That means placing a<br />

key focus on replenishment<br />

too – you won’t sell anything<br />

if it’s languishing in<br />

the stockroom.<br />

Online retailing has<br />

functionality licked.<br />

Customers entering<br />

your store are seeking<br />

inspiration. So give it to<br />

them. An understanding of<br />

the fundamental basics of<br />

product presentation should<br />

extend beyond product<br />

availability and maintaining<br />

retail standards; it should<br />

inform purchase behaviour,<br />

tell compelling product stories<br />

and push average transaction<br />

values skyward. Applied<br />

well, the distinct elements of<br />

effective visual merchandising<br />

can serve as the blueprint for<br />

ongoing sales success.<br />

Delight the senses and make<br />

memories. Enjoy a great<br />

instore experience and you’ll<br />

want to do it again and again.<br />

That’s where giving shoppers<br />

an opportunity to do, taste,<br />

feel, hear your brand and<br />

product message can go far<br />

beyond simply presenting<br />

‘what good looks like’ instore.<br />

It’s where actual stores<br />

beat online shopping hands<br />

down. A positive experience<br />

turns browsers into buyers,<br />

stimulating shopper interest<br />

into transactions.<br />

With a clearly defined and<br />

simple-to-implement VM<br />

policy in hand, store teams<br />

will be able to dedicate<br />

themselves to bringing the<br />

retail experience to life in<br />

a way that’s enjoyable and<br />

easy to shop. But sales<br />

success can’t be built on<br />

the efforts of one person<br />

alone. So make sure every<br />

member of your store teams<br />

knows what good looks like.<br />

Get it right and sales will<br />

increase. Fact.<br />

IMAGE: The new John Lewis ‘experiential’ concept in Westfield, London.<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 10<br />

More<br />

Smart leaders know the power of their<br />

store teams. In challenging times,<br />

these are the people that will drive<br />

performance success.<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 11<br />

Alarming statistics from the<br />

high street are hard to avoid. So<br />

far, over 20,000 jobs have been<br />

cut in the retail sector in just the<br />

first six months of 2018.<br />

Fewer Jobs<br />

Kirsty Kean<br />

Lead Retail Specialist<br />

@shoptactics_kk<br />

Employment in the UK retail sector has been<br />

declining for more than two years.<br />

Total employed three-month average (YoY change)<br />

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018<br />

Data: British Retail Consortium<br />

10%<br />

-10%<br />

With high-profile names crumbling and others<br />

conducting savage restructuring, it’s clear that<br />

change is afoot. But how do retailers survive, let<br />

alone thrive?<br />

Strategic decisions are made from the top<br />

down, cascaded to those who have to<br />

implement changes – the store teams. That’s<br />

why, when it comes to your new vision, it’s vital<br />

that store teams ‘get it’. Strong leadership is<br />

a must. But equally, so is cohesive, seamless<br />

teamwork, with everyone pulling effortlessly<br />

together to deliver the common goal. Success<br />

cannot be built by one person alone. Retailers<br />

perform best when their people work together,<br />

each with a clear understanding of how their<br />

role contributes to overall performance, and<br />

how they personally can make change happen.<br />

0<br />

Conversely, when outcomes are not plainly<br />

defined, the results can be toxic. Ambiguity of<br />

change can negatively impact the experience<br />

for shoppers, store teams and, ultimately,<br />

retail performance.<br />

For the past 20 years, I have<br />

worked with retailers around<br />

the world to leverage the<br />

power of their people instore.<br />

Many elements of my job<br />

involve improving the ‘visual’<br />

retail experience, but that’s<br />

only half the story. In our<br />

current straitened times, many<br />

retailers are forced to make<br />

tough decisions. Reducing numbers is an<br />

understandable (and often necessary) first<br />

step for those seeking to improve fortunes.<br />

But when you need the energy, commitment<br />

and hands-on capability to deliver, build and<br />

win, there is no substitute for engaged and<br />

motivated store teams. Retailers driven to<br />

workforce reduction must see their remaining<br />

store teams as a performance powerhouse,<br />

the driving force uncompromisingly marching<br />

to success. Here, they need to squeeze every<br />

last drop out of what is arguably their most<br />

important asset – their people.<br />

Energised and focused store teams digging<br />

deep behind shared visions and goals deliver<br />

results that are hard to beat. If more retailers<br />

can educate their teams in the importance<br />

of getting it right... they might really have<br />

something<br />

Do the math<br />

“There is no<br />

substitute for<br />

engaged and<br />

motivated<br />

store teams.”<br />

From stores transformed to staff engaged and time (often just<br />

weeks) taken to deliver visible change, the work of Visual Thinking<br />

in numbers. No wonder so many retailers turn to us. It figures…<br />

2,904 8,000 15%<br />

Big W – Number of<br />

regional managers,<br />

store managers and<br />

retail teams trained<br />

in just eight weeks.<br />

O2 – Total number<br />

of store employees<br />

to successfully<br />

complete our<br />

visual excellence<br />

programme.<br />

Wilko – Average<br />

sales uplift as a<br />

result of House<br />

Proud retail team<br />

engagement<br />

programme.<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 12<br />

Flag<br />

Waiving<br />

In a world where measurable<br />

performance matters, has the<br />

traditional flagship store had its day?<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 13<br />

Helen Bonser<br />

Senior Retail Specialist<br />

@shoptactics_hb<br />

In its heyday it was a spectacular<br />

status symbol for retailer optimism. But<br />

the once-mighty flagship store is now<br />

unquestionably, well, flagging.<br />

Take Dyson. Opening several flagship Dyson Demo<br />

stores worldwide in the US, Canada, UK etc, with<br />

the latest one now in Bangkok, feels like little more<br />

than grandstanding. With high rents and seemingly<br />

minimal customer footfall, the stores are almost<br />

museum-like: empty homages to the brand and its<br />

engineering excellence. And it begs the question...<br />

what is the point?<br />

Perhaps they are trying to demonstrate their prowess<br />

to customers in markets where they are lesser known.<br />

But the counter argument is: are high-profile malls<br />

and 5th Avenue really the best places for this? Or<br />

is it simply an egodriven<br />

exercise? Whilst<br />

I generally like the<br />

stores and their bold<br />

execution, I can’t help<br />

wondering about their<br />

longevity.<br />

“Perhaps it’s time<br />

to re-evaluate<br />

their role, content<br />

and format - or even<br />

their existence.”<br />

Flagship stores have<br />

long been accused of<br />

being vanity projects,<br />

designed to woo<br />

would-be investors. But all too often it’s clear these<br />

projects are white elephants – hugely expensive<br />

marketing showpieces that may add some value to<br />

brand equity, but add very little to the bottom line. Put<br />

simply, many flagship stores are vast money pits.<br />

For me, focus must surely be diverted from flagwaving<br />

to tangible action and visible transformation,<br />

at real scale, delivering visible change that makes<br />

IMAGE: The Hunter store in Toronto continues the brand’s investment in new stores and VM.<br />

a commercial difference. Delivering measurable<br />

success is possible, by moving away from<br />

showboating and back to good old-fashioned<br />

retailing. Investing in Stores of Learning is a good<br />

place to start, enabling retailers to learn real lessons<br />

from proposed changes to instore policies and<br />

principles, and offering retail teams an opportunity<br />

to understand the ‘why’ and, crucially, the ‘how’ – to<br />

do the right thing every day across all your stores.<br />

By applying these learnings across the<br />

entire store estates – effectively and at<br />

pace – retailers can implement genuine<br />

change.<br />

Before flying the flagship store, they<br />

must ask themselves: would they rather<br />

be vacuous attention seekers or a quietly<br />

confident, commercially successful<br />

brand?<br />

Flagships have long been an essential<br />

part of a brand’s store format strategy. Originally they<br />

were there to make the ultimate statement about what<br />

and who a brand is and have a halo effect on the<br />

rest of the store estate. But perhaps it’s time to reevaluate<br />

their role, content and format – or even their<br />

existence. Surely store format needs to be designed<br />

around shopper need and the problems that must be<br />

solved in their customer journey? Starting from here<br />

will mean that a flagship store may not be the answer<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 14<br />

Dyson Flagship Store,<br />

Toronto<br />

UK brand Dyson has opened a number of its<br />

flagship Demo stores in high profile global<br />

cities over recent months. The longevity of such<br />

hugely expensive marketing showpieces is likely<br />

to increasingly be called into question, with<br />

more and more brands needing to focus on the<br />

commercial realities of delivering success in a<br />

tough retail climate.<br />

Back<br />


Making the<br />

Cut<br />

Underperforming stores cost retailers their<br />

future. Visual Thinking help retailers to<br />

deliver best practice retail experiences to<br />

transform sales performance.<br />

Focused investment. Big results.<br />

Get in touch<br />

1993-2018<br />

Call us +44 (0) 2080 506 028<br />

New Business Enquiries<br />

kirsty@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Years<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 16<br />

Comeback<br />

Kids<br />

It’s decision time for<br />

Mothercare as its future<br />

remains uncertain.<br />

Suzanne Tanner<br />

Senior Retail Specialist<br />

@shoptactics_st<br />

Once the mother of all<br />

children’s brands, the fortunes<br />

of Mothercare are now resting<br />

in the balance.<br />

Under its recently announced CVA<br />

proposal, the retailer plans to close<br />

59 unprofitable stores and seek rent<br />

reductions in others. Just how can this<br />

complex retail story find its conclusion?<br />

Let’s look at a parallel. Faced with challenges<br />

of its own, US retailer Crate&Barrel chose<br />

an innovative response to changes in the<br />

shopping behaviour of expectant parents,<br />

closing all stores in its sister division,<br />

The Land of Nod, and opening dedicated<br />

Crate&kids departments within their<br />

own stores.<br />

This strategic decision makes Crate&Barrel<br />

perfectly placed to now target the entire<br />

family of shoppers. A clever move indeed.<br />

Returning to this side of the pond: what, if<br />

anything, could Mothercare learn from this?<br />

It’s decision time.<br />

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash<br />

It’s clear that what the retailer needs is<br />

a prompt and powerful programme of<br />

transformational activities. While it has<br />

already taken a tough stance, what can it<br />

do to reverse its fortunes, rather than simply<br />

hold its current ground? Does it need its<br />

own stores, or could its future be in logical<br />

strategic alliances, moving towards a ‘shopin-shop’<br />

approach?<br />

For me, Mothercare stores are part and<br />

parcel of the brand, and it is far from<br />

being a lost cause. But it does need to<br />

find itself again, and with a more strategic,<br />

cohesive and radical approach. It’s a brand<br />

that’s crying out for attention and – with<br />

focus, expertise and discipline – it could<br />

potentially find itself back in its trusted role<br />

as the parent whisperer. Our American<br />

counterparts are stepping up to the mark.<br />

It’s now time for Mothercare to do the same<br />

Physical Retail<br />

vs Online Sales<br />

Store Online<br />

41% 59%<br />

28% 72%<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 17<br />

New<br />

Waves<br />

With big new developments<br />

popping up, can Faro<br />

rediscover its former glories?<br />

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rodrigo Kugnharski/Unsplash<br />

Transformation in retail is one<br />

thing. But how about regeneration of<br />

an entire town’s retail fortunes? That’s<br />

the challenge facing Faro right now.<br />

The capital of Portugal’s Algarve once boasted a<br />

charming old town and harbour. But lately, tourists<br />

are more likely to spot boarded-up buildings, small<br />

and shabby bars and restaurants, and prolific<br />

graffiti. The property boom of the 2000s brought in<br />

a massive tourism influx, ably aided by the then-new<br />

low-cost airlines opening up the region as the go-to<br />

destination. Then came the global economic crisis<br />

that bred severe local debt, and subsequent austerity.<br />

Fast forward ten years and the town is undergoing<br />

a mini metamorphosis. The most recent retail<br />

development has opened within the last 12 months.<br />

Designed, developed, and managed by IKEA Centres,<br />

it is a large out-of-town development that includes<br />

three separate destinations: a full-scale IKEA store,<br />

Mar Shopping Centre and the Algarve Designer Outlet.<br />

Faro – Explorer<br />

To read more visit visualthinking.co.uk<br />

The good: the IKEA is huge, and likely to serve the local<br />

community of new villas, apartments and developments<br />

well. Other notable shops in the development include<br />

a superb Primark. The bad: it’s somewhat disappointing<br />

that the biggest new development in the region is so<br />

corporate, and unlikely to do too much to restore the<br />

town’s former picturesque glory. And the ugly? Well,<br />

while the development brings money, the promise of jobs<br />

and an increase in growth and tourism, it is not going to<br />

prove a friend to other local commercial centres. One big<br />

development could mean the demise of other, smaller ones.<br />

Against such might, and money, and connections.... how<br />

can the charming old town survive? The challenge to<br />

Faro, as a town, is to recover prosperity and preserve its<br />

integrity. The challenge to mega brand players that can<br />

bring their new money and weighty influence to town is<br />

to act with responsibility to the whole society, and not<br />

simply to serve their own corporate interests. Retail is<br />

more than commercial: it’s societal. If one part of the<br />

community feels marginalised they’re unlikely to become<br />

fans. Watch this space...<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 18<br />

Rebuild<br />

Fortunes<br />

When retailers are teetering on the<br />

edge, it’s tempting to assume they’ll<br />

fall. But coming back from the brink<br />

is possible... if retailers seize the day<br />

and face up to the challenges ahead.<br />

Barbara Thau<br />

Guest Contributor<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 19<br />

Comebacks are hard to come by in<br />

retail. Few retailers lose their way and<br />

find their way back.<br />

The list of casualties is long and varied. Worldwide,<br />

the last two years alone marked the end of Sears<br />

Canada, the UK’s BHS, Australia’s Topshop and<br />

New Zealand’s Kiwi Clothing, along with US clothing<br />

chains American Apparel and THE LIMITED.<br />

But there are exceptions to the no-way-back-fromthe-brink<br />

rule. Retailers such as Best Buy, Starbucks<br />

and even the seemingly invincible Apple have all<br />

pulled off bona fide reversals of fortunes.<br />

Their triumphant revival strategies share some<br />

common ground, including a laser focus on core<br />

competency and a ruthless whittling away at<br />

whatever doesn’t serve.<br />

When J.C. Penney plucked former Apple merchant<br />

Ron Johnson to be CEO, Johnson wooed high-end<br />

shoppers by eliminating sale events and adding fancy<br />

merchandise from the likes of Sir Terence Conran.<br />

The result: billions lost in sales. The retailer ousted<br />

Johnson, then came back from the brink by outright<br />

apologising to its core base of Middle American<br />

IMAGE: US clothing retailer American Apparel is one of many to have closed its stores © JPDA.<br />

shoppers for abandoning them, bringing back bargains<br />

and coupons, and restocking the beloved store brands<br />

axed in the upscale makeover.<br />

Overall, retailers that have managed a turnaround have<br />

done so by serving unmet needs (Best Buy); uncorking<br />

new revenue streams by building on existing brand equity<br />

(Starbucks); pivoting to a shifting consumer base; and<br />

evolving with changing shopper tastes and habits.<br />

Righting a retail ship also calls for the unglamorous-butcritical<br />

work of getting one’s operational house in order.<br />

Merchandise is the lifeblood of every retail organisation.<br />

And if you can’t get the right inventory to the right<br />

shopper at the right time because your supply chain is a<br />

mess, nothing else much matters.<br />

Best Buy’s revival not only affirms some integral elements<br />

to successfully delivering real change, but also speaks<br />

to reinvention in the age of Amazon. The consumer<br />

electronics chain responded to changing shopping<br />

triggers, found a way to answer an unmet consumer<br />

need, and gave shoppers something online retail<br />

could not.<br />

IMAGE: Topshop began closing underperforming stores in Australia last year.<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 20<br />

It was a very different story back in 2012. The<br />

retailer was battling obsolescence as Amazon<br />

undercut its prices, and seemed helpless amid<br />

showrooming, when shoppers browse a store for an<br />

item, only to later buy the product online for less.<br />

New CEO Hubert Jolly brought in big changes.<br />

Best Buy has added services and experiences<br />

online can’t provide, such as hiring hundreds<br />

of salespeople to make profitable home visits<br />

and offering free, personalised electronics<br />

recommendations.<br />

IMAGE: The revamp of its apparel collections by J.C. Penney in favour of hip brands,<br />

like Joe Fresh, proved disastrous.<br />

The chain also reinvested a portion of these profits<br />

in technology to boost its supply chain speed and<br />

efficiency, with the goal of offering US shoppers<br />

next-day delivery. The results have paid off: Best<br />

Buy has boosted sales and earnings while gaining<br />

market share.<br />

Then there are the revivals shepherded by<br />

iconoclastic CEOs like Apple’s Steve Jobs and<br />

Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, who are etched into<br />

the DNA of the company. Their turnarounds have<br />

sprung largely from an intangible, yet intuitive, feel<br />

for their businesses.<br />

Schultz left Starbucks in 2000, returning in 2008<br />

when the coffee chain was struggling, beset by over<br />

expansion in the US. He reinvested in service via<br />

the human touch with baristas, moving away from<br />

cookie-cutter locations, giving each coffee house a<br />

flavour that reflected the region it served.<br />

As buying tangible things has become<br />

unprecedentedly cheap, easy, and unlimited<br />

with the endless aisle that is online shopping,<br />

consumers are looking for retail venues that do<br />

more than just sell things to get them out the door.<br />

Retail is both an art and a science. It seems retail<br />

reinventions must be that, too<br />

IMAGE: Returning Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz spearheaded a marked turnaround<br />

in fortunes.<br />

Barbara Thau is a New York-based business journalist<br />

and contributing retail reporter for Forbes.com, also<br />

covering consumer news and lifestyle trends for<br />

publications including CNBC, The New York Daily<br />

News and Fortune.com.<br />

Back<br />


Leading<br />

The Performance Issue 21<br />

Ambitions<br />

How strong leadership<br />

can pave the way to a<br />

better future.<br />

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Samuel Zellar/Unsplash<br />

Great leadership is crucial in all<br />

walks of life. But while leading through<br />

continued success takes one type<br />

of person, pulling people up, making<br />

them believe and giving them hope and<br />

motivation during bleak times takes<br />

another altogether.<br />

Tina Emerson<br />

Learning & Development<br />

Manager<br />

@shoptactics<br />

If teamwork in retail is important, the right<br />

leadership is critical. A good example is former<br />

Burberry boss Christopher Bailey. He deserves to be<br />

applauded for his revolutionary work with the brand.<br />

A visionary leader, he turned Burberry’s fortunes<br />

around, making it Britain’s biggest luxury brand.<br />

But being the prominent figurehead of a brand is<br />

not without its challenges. All eyes are now firmly<br />

fixed on House of Fraser CEO Alex Williamson as<br />

he leads the beleaguered retailer through its CVA,<br />

and Debenhams chief Sergio Bucher as he pushes<br />

forward a series of uncomfortable measures to<br />

restore growth after a sharp drop in profits. And<br />

challenges are coming thick and fast for other<br />

senior retail leaders, who need to draw on all their<br />

resources to deliver decisive and effective change.<br />

Transforming a retail giant’s fortunes takes steely<br />

resolve, unswerving determination and complete,<br />

unshakeable faith in your decisions.<br />

For strong leaders, there is no room for sitting on<br />

the fence, watching and waiting or muddled visions.<br />

It requires a bold strategy, clear plan and meaningful<br />

action. And always a little luck.<br />

As 2018 continues to bring mixed fortunes for many<br />

retailers, fresh attention is firmly on those at the<br />

helm. True success can only be driven from the<br />

top, ably supported by solid teamwork. The broad<br />

shoulders of a business leader are designed to carry<br />

a business, and a brand, as they strive relentlessly,<br />

infinitely, for better.<br />

The time for mere fighting talk is over. The time for<br />

dynamic, inspiring leadership that packs a punch<br />

from all angles is here. And without helpful external<br />

factors, companies must do whatever they can<br />

themselves to create their own success by making<br />

changes in circumstances that will lead to business<br />

survival and growth.<br />

This is no time for the faint-hearted. And there is no<br />

time to waste<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 22<br />

1993-2018<br />

Now<br />

Years<br />

(and then)<br />

The choice of leading retailers and brands<br />

for the last 25 years, a lot has changed<br />

since Visual Thinking first began its<br />

journey. Back in 1993, the Ford Mondeo<br />

was king of the road, Pepsi Max had<br />

arrived, and Jurassic Park (the original)<br />

was the big box office smash. Many great<br />

retailers were also born, but many too<br />

have disappeared from our high streets<br />

for good. So, slip off those rose-tinted<br />

glasses for a timely reminder of what<br />

success and failure look like.<br />

Inspiring<br />

Retail<br />

Performance ®<br />

For more information visit<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 23<br />

Battle<br />

As change becomes inevitable<br />

for many, how can embattled<br />

retailers steer a clear path to<br />

better times?<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 24<br />

Mel Hales<br />

Guest Contributor<br />

With many retailers facing a serious<br />

battle to survive, building more resilient<br />

teams and individuals is increasingly key to<br />

staying on the offensive.<br />

While leading store teams through challenging periods of<br />

change is no easy feat, it is possible to navigate your way<br />

through and emerge into brighter days. We all have individual<br />

needs that must be met before we can work at our best. One<br />

of these is security. In our current climate, many are asking:<br />

“Will our store be next, and will I lose my job?” Where we<br />

remove stability in one place, we must replace it in another.<br />

As a leader you must be the constant in the face of change.<br />

Facebook’s famous internal slogan: ‘Move fast and break<br />

things’, is contrary to how we’re often taught to act. But<br />

this formed the basis of their success. It also embodies<br />

their attitude to failure. Anecdotally, one contract engineer<br />

crashed the Facebook site for 30 minutes because he tried<br />

a new way of fixing a bug. Rather than berating him, they<br />

offered him a full-time contract.<br />

Similarly, your<br />

company’s attitude to<br />

“It’s about<br />

failure will dictate how<br />

willing your people<br />

normalising<br />

are to try new things.<br />

Getting them to think the concept<br />

differently could<br />

of change.”<br />

transform an average<br />

customer experience<br />

into a fantastic one.<br />

It’s about normalising the concept of change, because in<br />

precarious times, business as usual simply won’t work. But<br />

the natural reaction to the pressure of proving immediate<br />

results is to become even more risk averse. So they return to<br />

business as usual... and the future is predetermined.<br />

Change isn’t easy, but an empowering and emotionally<br />

intelligent approach to leadership will make it a lot easier.<br />

Resilience is not a fixed quality. It is something you can<br />

build, and helping your people to do so will pay dividends<br />

Mel Hales is the director of Rush Collective, a training<br />

consultancy specialising in wellbeing, leadership and<br />

team development.<br />

To learn more visit<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />

The retailers seeing positive<br />

change in store team performance<br />

right now all share four common<br />

themes (each a strong contributor<br />

to the notion of engagement,<br />

effectiveness, and productivity):<br />

Connecting<br />

Ensuring key people, regardless of their separate<br />

disciplines, recognise the importance of viewing the<br />

store experience through the eyes of the shopper (e.g.<br />

adopting a ‘Thinking Like A Customer’ and ‘Would I<br />

Buy It?’ mentality). Honesty counts.<br />

Communicating<br />

Improving people’s understanding of the ‘what’ and<br />

the ‘why’ (e.g. sharing the vision, setting expectations<br />

of standards, and rolling out policy). Don’t sugar coat<br />

hard truths. Keep it real. Develop a culture of everyday<br />

excellence, inspiring people to climb higher and to raise<br />

the bar. Celebrate, and share, the smallest success!<br />

Coaching<br />

Helping people to build the skills they need to perform<br />

tasks quickly, effectively and consistently, so that retail<br />

best practice becomes a way of life instore. Make it<br />

easy. Keep it clear. Get it to last.<br />

Cohesive<br />

The company plan unites people in a shared sense of<br />

purpose for working together effectively, recognising<br />

shared commitment to better results. Leaders inspire<br />

and make it possible for colleagues to be successful. A<br />

‘win/win’ culture is expressed and rewarded, benefitting<br />

everyone: shoppers, employees and shareholders.<br />

Back<br />


Jet Set, Go!<br />

The Performance Issue 25<br />

Here’s our pick from the most recent in our<br />

Explorer travel series. Take a moment and discover<br />

global retail best practice. Go explore<br />

Venice<br />

Italy<br />

A long-time favourite destination for<br />

romantics, we paid a visit to see what<br />

the city has instore for lovers of retail.<br />

Hong Kong<br />

China<br />

As shoppers from the mainland start<br />

to return, visitors are rarely further<br />

than a short taxi ride from rich retail<br />

experiences.<br />

Split<br />

Croatia<br />

In many ways, Croatia is a nation<br />

at odds with itself. A young but<br />

conservative nation, its dual personality<br />

is perfectly encapsulated in the retail<br />

offering of its second city.<br />

Washington DC<br />

USA<br />

It might have more impact on the political<br />

rather than retail landscape, but there are<br />

several stores within the capital’s malls<br />

(and beyond) that get our vote.<br />

Let’s Explore<br />

visit visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Berlin<br />

Germany<br />

While there is plenty on offer for those<br />

seeking the big and the bold, those<br />

seeking to explore a new path will find<br />

a world of much smaller delights at their<br />

fingertips.<br />

Faro<br />

Portugal<br />

The global economic crisis bred severe<br />

local austerity. Fast forward ten years and<br />

Faro is undergoing a mini metamorphosis.<br />

But are might and money threatening to<br />

overshadow the old town’s charm?<br />

Toronto<br />

Canada<br />

With its unique blend of cultures,<br />

heritage and customs, Toronto makes<br />

for a real retail metropolis.<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 26<br />

Fresh<br />

Thinking<br />

A new approach to front<br />

of store promotions sees<br />

Waitrose leading the way<br />

in innovative thinking.<br />

Grocery retail is notoriously<br />

competitive, but especially in the<br />

current climate. These are times of<br />

‘generational change’.<br />

Suzanne Tanner<br />

Senior Retail Specialist<br />

@shoptactics_st<br />

Just being good isn’t good enough. So where does<br />

this leave powerhouse retailers like Waitrose? Owner<br />

John Lewis Partnership has reacted swiftly to a profits<br />

warning by vowing a period of significant investment<br />

to grow sales, with CEO Rob Collins declaring he will<br />

make Waitrose more ‘Waitrose’.<br />

This investment will focus on developing unique<br />

products and services and placing increased<br />

emphasis on the brand. According to Sir Charlie<br />

Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership:<br />

“For us, the relentless pursuit of greater scale is not<br />

the right course. Our plans put differentiation, innovation<br />

and partner-led service at the heart of our offer.”<br />

Part of that change has seen it working closely with Visual<br />

Thinking over recent months, delivering a fresh approach<br />

to VM implementation in its front of store campaigns.<br />

Using the latest digital software, we used 3D modelling<br />

to bring merchandising planograms to life like never<br />

before. We combined this with a new approach to partner<br />

engagement and instore training to help people work<br />

more efficiently, and deliver outstanding presentation for<br />

shoppers. Fresh indeed<br />

It works<br />

This initiative has clearly delivered improved performance.<br />

Retail teams used detailed visual guides for all front<br />

of store fixturing, enabling them to understand and<br />

implement VM guidelines more efficiently and preserving<br />

the integrity of campaigns across all stores. The unique<br />

solution is a masterclass in visual excellence with clear<br />

commercial results. Smart.<br />

To view case study visit<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Back<br />


The Performance Issue 27<br />

better. Beginning as one shop, it<br />

has learned and grown over the<br />

past decade, now boasting over 80<br />

boutiques in 23 states.<br />

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Karl McKeever<br />

Its strong USP is certainly unique:<br />

the store is church run, backed, and<br />

owned, with all profits going back<br />

to the church. No shareholders.<br />

No partners. Just a community.<br />

Enlightened.<br />

Can faith and<br />

good business go<br />

hand in hand? With<br />

many retailers facing<br />

considerable<br />

Faith<br />

challenges<br />

right now,<br />

it’s never<br />

been more<br />

important for<br />

leaders to<br />

Keeping<br />

keep the faith.<br />

In a bid to<br />

better resonate<br />

with today’s<br />

shoppers,<br />

countless<br />

retailers have<br />

launched<br />

ethical<br />

initiatives<br />

to foster a stronger sense of<br />

community and social purpose.<br />

“An important<br />

reminder of<br />

the values of<br />

the brand.”<br />

Putting its money where its mouth<br />

is, every month stores can find and<br />

choose a local non-profit charity<br />

to donate to. The brand taps into<br />

idealistic motivations and provides<br />

deeper reasons for its existence<br />

beyond making money. Prayer<br />

request books can be found in the<br />

changing rooms, a subtle touch<br />

but an important reminder of the<br />

values of the brand. But that does<br />

not mean making money is a<br />

secondary focus. Its Washington<br />

store demonstrates a clear retail<br />

know-how,<br />

competently<br />

executed and<br />

delivered. The<br />

experience<br />

is on par, if<br />

not ahead<br />

of its peers,<br />

demonstrating<br />

that a strong<br />

calling and declared ‘conviction’<br />

can also be very good for business.<br />

For US retailer Altar’d State,<br />

keeping the faith or taking an<br />

ethical stance is certainly not<br />

a problem. Mixing faith and<br />

fashion, it started with a mission<br />

to fill a gap in the retail industry<br />

and change the world for the<br />

An extreme example, maybe, but<br />

Altar’d State delivers a tangible<br />

connection between its brand and<br />

its customers. And right now, that’s<br />

something that many struggling<br />

retailers in the UK are praying they<br />

can deliver<br />

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Grant Whitty<br />

Back<br />


Cutting<br />

The Performance Issue 28<br />

Edge<br />

Putting performance at the heart of<br />

this issue of <strong>Counter</strong> <strong>Culture</strong> has made<br />

one thing abundantly clear: Judgement<br />

Day is here and only those<br />

“Get up.<br />

Get moving<br />

who embrace change and<br />

turbo charge better retail<br />

execution will survive.<br />

Year-on-Year Sales Increase (%)<br />

How focused investment has delivered measurable uplift in retail<br />

performance with support from Visual Thinking.<br />

Harley-Davidson<br />

Sheridan<br />

24<br />

and get in touch.”<br />

Focus is key. Blind pursuit of<br />

transformation is simply a waste of<br />

time and energy. Real transformation centres on this<br />

question: what can you do today to deliver change?<br />

Much has been said of the role of new technology as<br />

the ‘saviour’ for retailers. I simply say: beware ‘false<br />

gods’. The investment and infrastructure requirements<br />

are unrealistic for businesses already in trouble.<br />

0<br />

Rapid change<br />

The Original Factory Shop – proportion of store estate transformed in<br />

just eight weeks.<br />

Completed<br />

Total<br />

44<br />

37<br />

188<br />

But, harnessing your greatest asset – your people<br />

– is what can make the difference. Your plan for<br />

change needs to engage all levels of employees –<br />

head office, regional management and store teams<br />

– giving them clearly defined guidance and new skills<br />

to drive a higher level of performance that serves your<br />

customers and, ultimately, makes your stores more<br />

profitable. Fail to do this and they will not know what<br />

good looks like and how to deliver it effectively, let<br />

alone why they’re doing it. A sobering thought.<br />

What is a plan without people to deliver it? And what<br />

are people without purpose? Redundant.<br />

When you have a rock-solid plan of action to deliver<br />

real, measurable improvements instore, in the here<br />

and now, there is no limit to what you can achieve.<br />

Now is the time for real action. Keep it simple. Get up.<br />

Get moving. And get in touch<br />

Back<br />

Karl McKeever<br />

Founder & Managing Director<br />

@karlmckeever | @shoptactics<br />


Calling for<br />

Change<br />

Get in touch<br />

Call us +44 (0) 2080 506 028<br />

New Business Enquiries<br />

kirsty@visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Cull or cure? No retailer can afford to ignore<br />

poor store performance. Visual Thinking delivers<br />

1993-2018<br />

immediate change in every store, every day. Not in<br />

years or months… but in weeks.<br />

Years<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />

Back<br />


Hi –<br />

Performance<br />

Inspiring Retail Performance ©<br />

Say hello to better stores and boost retail<br />

sales… not in years or months, but weeks.<br />

For 25 years, Visual Thinking has been helping retailers<br />

to bring about change instore, and fast. Led by a team of<br />

experienced and highly talented retail specialists, we deliver<br />

real, effective and immediate breakthroughs in performance.<br />

From defining visual policy and transforming store standards,<br />

to improving team engagement and VM skills<br />

Get in touch...<br />

+44 (0) 2080 506 028<br />

The story continues online...<br />

visualthinking.co.uk<br />

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system without the prior permission of Visual Thinking Limited.<br />

www.dsgnlab.com<br />


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