Spontaneity and innovation should be cherished in retail, says Jacqueline Gold
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I love movies, especially now the award season is in full swing. Nobody delivers glamour, gossip, celebrity, controversy, social commentary and frivolity and then bundles it up into what amounts to a compelling marketing campaign, quite like the film industry.
There are so many new films I want to see and too many that I missed last year, which I now must buy. By the time the Oscars have been and gone, I’ll also have a long list of dresses and fabulous accessories I’ll have begun coveting, shortly after spotting them on various red carpets and the ensuing magazines. There’s much we could learn as an industry from Hollywood.
One of those lessons is action: that clapperboard moment when the talking stops and the business starts. Films, and indeed award ceremonies, are often at their best when they take a chance or cross a line.
The Golden Globes was a good example. Ricky Gervais was acerbic as host, for which he was both celebrated and criticised. He was loved, he was hated, but above all else his performance was debated, gaining the Golden Globes priceless publicity.
Had his script been put to the committee before the show, he would have been censored. I feel that as retailers we don’t take chances like Ricky did - bold retail ideas get diluted by the collective.
Similarly the direction we give our stores - particularly when it comes to stock packages and visual merchandising - is not only too prescriptive but often isn’t customer centric either.
I think customers are bored of identikit stores in identikit centres. Retail is like sex - we all crave variety, spontaneity and invention. It’s the difference between ‘try something new today’ and ‘every little helps’.
I know which I’d prefer. It’s these desires that have helped drive the growth of music festivals and stand-up comedy. Customers want bespoke, personalised experiences, which can only really happen at live events.
The irony is that as retailers, every time we open for business it’s show time - we just need to remind our cast members of this and regularly change the programme.
There are parallels in brand communication, where our customers through their blogs, posts and tweets now decide what our brand is all about, when pre-Google we told them. Logic suggests that we should offer a greater variety of retail experiences and let our customers choose.
So this Valentine’s we’ll be rebranding a number of our stores to Man Summers and transforming the in-store experience into one centred around the needs of male customers.
Should we experiment with store branding at such a key trading period? Will we put off our female customers? Lengthy debate will only diminish this great idea - it’s time for action, time to take a chance, have some fun and hopefully deliver a unique customer experience that will drive interest, footfall and sales.
- Jacqueline Gold is chief executive of Ann Summers