Less is more

In the new world of online retailing, companies really need to stand out from the crowd. No more so than in clothes retailing, a traditionally fickle and fast-moving market. Enter Everlane, who burst onto the online scene in 2011 with a simple T-shirt – the ultimate in sartorial basics. After initial success, they added ties and bags, all made using luxury materials, yet sold at a realistic price level, and sales really took off. So, what singled them out from the competition? I decided to find out for myself while researching my series of lectures on Retail and Merchandising, and it made for interesting reading.

Image © EVERLANE

Conscious of the millennial generation’s preference for all things ethically sourced, Everlane chose ‘radical transparency’ as its mission statement. When customers bought a bag from them, they could watch a video of the factory where it was made, and track all the costs along the line to see exactly what the mark-up was – always reasonable. And Everlane have never followed fashion. They produce well designed, classic items based around ‘customer experience’, providing a 24/7 wardrobe that is made to last. Only time will tell whether this is a retail formula that has real staying power too.

Dig deeper –

Challenges old and new
Global giants
Offline and Online
Seismic changes ahead
Then and now – what has changed?

King of the jungle

At some point in recent years we have all probably considered boycotting Amazon. What right did this upstart US company have to corner the retail market for just about everything? What was going to happen to all those independent retailers, especially the booksellers in the first instance, who would be put out of business by Amazon’s e-books and its Kindle, and later just about everyone else who was running a shop on the high street? Yet somehow the sheer convenience and reliability of using Amazon, not to mention their pricing levels, won us all over.

Image © AMAZON

The Amazon story is an obvious choice for inclusion in my lectures on Retail and Merchandising. This is a clear example of disruptive technology at work, with the company offering a one-stop online shop for almost anything you could want to buy thanks to its massive third party sales, which already account for half its turnover. Now generating its own content for media downloads, and acting as a home PA with its Echo voice interaction package, Amazon seems to be taking over almost all aspects of our lives. Maybe we should enjoy the convenience that this brings for now, but be prepared to draw the line some day.

Dig deeper –

Challenges old and new
Global giants
Offline and Online
Seismic changes ahead
Then and now – what has changed?

Success by design

While researching my series of lectures on Innovation and Design Management, I came across some fascinating material on Thomas Heatherwick and his studio.

It is always interesting, and unusual, to find someone with expertise and success in both the creative arena and in business. This is something I can relate to, as someone who is excited as much by the idea of running a successful design consultancy as by practising design.

Image © Thomas Heatherwick Studio

Heatherwick puts craft at the very heart of his business – something I feel is vital to success in the 21st century as we embrace ‘globalisation’. Learning the mechanics of how things work is, for me, essential to understanding the design process. And aiming for perfection in every aspect of a project is not only commendable but key to long term success. So much of what passes for design today is nothing more than technique. Heatherwick, and others like him, put the creativity back into design, and it works.

Dig deeper –

Invention or innovation?
Is it better to be first or best?
What drives innovation?

Tweeting in the dark

I can clearly remember the launch of Twitter, and thinking how odd was the concept of sending a text message restricted to just 140 characters. Of course, I now tweet on a regular basis and follow many fellow tweeters, along with my daily catch-up on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. So, one would expect Twitter to be a runaway success as a business, assured of billions of dollars in future revenues. Not so, I discovered, when researching the company for my series of lectures on Leadership, Teambuilding and Managerial Creativity.

Image © Twitter

The business has been dogged by problems with its management team, but most interestingly, it has always struggled to decide exactly what Twitter is. Its founders have consistently maintained that it is not a social networking site. So is it simply a communications tool, or something more? This confused thinking and lack of vision has made investors wary, and has kept away top talent. So what will become of Twitter ­– everyone’s favourite ‘don’t quite know what’? Answers in 140 characters, please.

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How does a business demonstrate leadership?
Why is leadership still so vitally important?
Devolving responsibility in large scale teams
Leadership challenges for traditional businesses

We’re all furniture makers now

When thinking of interesting examples of retailers for my series of lectures on Retail and Merchandising, I could not ignore the mighty IKEA. This extraordinary success story has impacted on most of our lives in the UK and in most countries around the world. Whether we have a Billy bookcase somewhere in the house or have kitted out our kids’ student accommodation with extra IKEA lamps and duvets, the chances are that we have all experienced the joys of the showroom maze, the ‘marketplace’ and the ‘warehouse’.

IKEA logo
Image © IKEA

Founder Ingvar Kamprad certainly had noble ideals. As a keen environmentalist, he was intent on keeping costs down to ensure a fair price for customers, and the revolutionary idea of flat-pack, self-assembly furniture made this a reality. But has this very affordability encouraged us to be more wasteful? Are we not more likely to replace our IKEA purchases more regularly, as fashions change, simply because we can afford to do so? Whatever the long-term effects, no one can deny that as a retailer, Kamprad has it made.

Dig deeper –

Challenges old and new
Global giants
Offline and Online
Seismic changes ahead
Then and now – what has changed?

CASE HISTORY 3: RESOURCE ASSESSMENT

CONSIDERING THE AVAILABLE RESOURCES TO MEET FLUCTUATING DEMAND

How do you encourage a company with a dangerous dependency on one large client to undertake a complete review of their identity and marketing strategy? Read on