To borrow from Benjamin Franklin, in the world of retail nothing is certain but death and taxes.
All of our brands will eventually shuffle off this mortal coil and, if you believe the soothsayers or retail analysts, many of us will pop our clogs some time this year.
We all expect fashion brands, pop music and magazines to have a life expectancy roughly akin to that of a mayfly, but what is it that keeps some brands thriving well beyond the day they get a telegram from the Queen?
Speak to Bernard Lewis at River Island or Sir Ken Morrison and I bet they’ll tell you that they built their businesses by constantly reinvent-ing themselves.
I don’t mean the ghastly reinvention that comes when the trendy brand consultants enter your life, stroke their Soho House goatees and tell you to change your logo from blue to pink. I mean the constant reinvention that is ingrained in the culture and every department within your organisation and that seeks to improve everything you do, from product quality to customer service and the in-store environment, every single day.
Our latest reinvention is our newly designed store that’s just opened on Oxford Street. It’s been a couple of years since we earned a raft of awards from the first new store concept that we opened in the Trafford Centre – the grandmother of this latest store.
The day we opened the store in Manchester was the day we began working on the next design. Since then, we’ve created a number of variations on a theme: the cheaper pared-back version, the superstore, the extra-sexy store, the small-store format, the soft and fluffy one and, of course, the harder one.
Each store has been a slight reinvention of the last and each has been created to suit the space, the city and the local customer profile. Some will argue that different store designs will only confuse customers as to what your brand stands for. I say that as long as the handwriting’s the same, the story should change – if you don’t, you’ll just bore your customers.
I can see parallels in nature. Scientists and environmentalists will typically concur that our planet can not only adapt, but often flourish when faced with reasonable changes to our ecosystem.
What’s harder to adjust to are the more dramatic and often violent changes caused when, for example, vast areas of rainforest are razed to the ground in a single act, which collectively has ignited the global warming crisis.
It’s similar to the way the more ponderous brands stand still, lose share and see profits erode, only to be pushed in a new direction by a bold new managing director wielding short-term slash and burn tactics like a Brazilian chain saw.
We won’t know the true number of casualties until after this economic weather front passes, but a strategy of continual reinvention will be the best way to defy the grim retail reaper.