Author Archives: retailstorm

Rebuilding Trust

tesco-linwood-completion_0757_2048x1365

Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO invited a group of journalists and analysts along to Tesco Head Office in Welwyn Garden City today, the purpose to brief us on the progress to date on the turnaround plan and the next steps along the journey. I went along to hear what he and his team had to say.

 

Let me begin by getting this out of the way; in the recent past I confess that I haven’t been one of Tesco’s greatest fans. It wasn’t scoring in many areas especially on price, product and place and the brand had lost much of its cachet, it had become an overbearing giant. I wasn’t alone in shunning it and in true Brexit style, the Great British public gave ‘the establishment’ a sound kicking – just to remind it who was boss.

But the Tesco of today, whilst still very much on a journey, is a different beast to the one Dave Lewis inherited when he joined 2 years ago. If the evidence of today is anything to go by, out has gone the culture of alpha male egos, replaced by a more conciliatory and collaborative approach. The message is clear, this comes from the top.

This became a bit of a mantra for the morning we spent with the Tesco Board – clearly it is all about re-building the brand and importantly the trust in the brand and the fruits of this are beginning to show. Only this week Kantar reported that sales grew 2.2% in the 12 weeks to November 6th, the fastest growth in 3 years.

So, can we expect wholesale changes from Tesco? Well, no – at least not on today’s evidence. Whilst there were no major announcements, what was presented was an update on the six point turnaround plan which is being executed in a very deliberate and methodical fashion.

  1. Rebuilding the brand
  2. Operational savings
  3. Generating cash from operations
  4. Targeting a 4% operating margin
  5. Generating value from property
  6. Innovation

One of the most striking perhaps are the plans to re-purpose property and space. Although not going into any detail of the stores this would affect, we can expect to see Tesco embarking on a programme of building on existing store sites to utilise what it refers to as its ‘air rights’ ie. the air above each store. Quite how far this extends will be interesting to see but we should expect to see flats and new retail space created in Tesco car parks.

“Clearly it is all about re-building the brand and importantly the trust in the brand and the fruits of this are beginning to show”

And after the turnaround plan update, a tour of the Tesco retail innovation centre – this the inner sanctum rarely seen by outsiders, there to view some of the thinking behind new ranging and product in fresh, bakery, packaged products (biscuits to you and I) and of course Christmas.

Progress and plans for greater efficiency along the food chain were also presented – however, working with the growers to reduce wastage didn’t appear too innovative, I would have expected this as part of business as usual years ago. And in a way, for someone who attended the Wired Retail 2016 event only the day before and whose head was still filled with such as AR, VR, AI and bots, there wasn’t much innovation on display.

But this shouldn’t be allowed to detract too much from the event. Being more open and transparent is a natural thing to do as part of re-building trust for anyone or any business and Tesco are to be applauded for their efforts in this regard. And whilst it may have been short on revelations, the message from the morning was clear, yes there is still an awful lot of work to be done, however, the ship has been steadied and is finally getting back on the right track. A feat which, 2 years ago, seemed a long way off.

That has to be good news for all of us.

 

Andrew Busby is ranked 25th most influential UK retail twitter account and founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board. He is a regular contributor to Retail Week and a member of the IBM Futurist programme.

West End Cracker!

xmas-lights

 

What do an ITV weather presenter, the NSPCC, Chinese tourists and Brexit all have in common?

Answer: they will all have an impact on Christmas in London’s West End this year. And how do I know this?

I recently attended a breakfast roundtable on the kind invitation of the New West End Company, the business voice of the West End, there to meet with their very personable CEO, Jace Tyrrell and a number of distinguished retailers, writers and analysts together with Lucy Verasamy, former Sky TV weather presenter and now face of the ITV weather. We were gathered to discuss the retail outlook for Christmas 2016 in the West End and a largely positive one it turns out to be.

“After a difficult 2016, the outlook is that the year will end on a more positive note”

London’s West End district, lest we forget, is not only the economic powerhouse for the UK but unrivalled globally as a shopping destination, encompassing as it does, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street. Some of the figures are simply staggering; according to the New West End Company within just 6.34 hectares there are over 600 stores and 219 flagship outlets for global brands. In addition, the West End employs 150,000 people – 3% of the total UK working population and generates more GVA (Gross Value Added) than the City of London representing £5.4billion over the festive period alone.

Over mince pies and coffee we debated the challenges and opportunities for the West End this Christmas, generally coming away feeling cautiously optimistic that after a difficult 2016, the outlook is that the year will end on a more positive note; three key factors contributed to this:

  1. The Weather

That perennial excuse for retail when sales are poor, the great British weather will inevitably play its part this year and whilst the odds on a White Christmas are not good, the best conditions – clear, crisp and dry – look like they will prevail. 

  1. Brexit

Any self respecting article these days needs to include comment on Brexit and it appears that although our pound abroad is suffering this of course means the reverse is true for tourists coming to London. And those from China, the Middle East and the US are especially prevalent. Coming here because of the weak pound but also preferring London to other European cities – the events in Paris and Brussels for example having a positive impact on the increase seen in visitors to London. And of course, what of the Trump factor? First indications are that this will have a positive effect.

  1. Experiential shopping

The West End is home to many leading brands’ flagship stores and visits to the likes of Apple, John Lewis, Hamleys, Polo Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors new flagship store on Regent Street bear this out. More use of personalised offerings and bespoke products are making the stores more vibrant, dynamic and enticing destinations for shoppers. Whilst online continues to grow apace, as we know, stores still account for the vast majority of transactions.

So, whilst it is true that Brexit remains a worry for many people, the vagaries of the British weather notwithstanding, shoppers generally forget their worries at Christmas and are happy to spend; meaning there’s good cause for optimism.

Add to this the traditional illuminations, traffic free Oxford and Regent Street at various times during the festive period, the night tube service and Black Friday and the signs are that pre-Brexit, this could be one of the West End’s best Christmas periods for a long time.

 

 

Andrew Busby is ranked 25th most influential UK retail twitter account and founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board. He is a regular contributor to Retail Week and a member of the IBM Futurist programme.

West End Cracker!

xmas-lights

 

What do an ITV weather presenter, the NSPCC, Chinese tourists and Brexit all have in common?

Answer: they will all have an impact on Christmas in London’s West End this year. And how do I know this?

I recently attended a breakfast roundtable on the kind invitation of the New West End Company, the business voice of the West End, there to meet with their very personable CEO, Jace Tyrrell and a number of distinguished retailers, writers and analysts together with Lucy Verasamy, former Sky TV weather presenter and now face of the ITV weather. We were gathered to discuss the retail outlook for Christmas 2016 in the West End and a largely positive one it turns out to be.

“After a difficult 2016, the outlook is that the year will end on a more positive note”

London’s West End district, lest we forget, is not only the economic powerhouse for the UK but unrivalled globally as a shopping destination, encompassing as it does, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street. Some of the figures are simply staggering; according to the New West End Company within just 6.34 hectares there are over 600 stores and 219 flagship outlets for global brands. In addition, the West End employs 150,000 people – 3% of the total UK working population and generates more GVA (Gross Value Added) than the City of London representing £5.4billion over the festive period alone.

Over mince pies and coffee we debated the challenges and opportunities for the West End this Christmas, generally coming away feeling cautiously optimistic that after a difficult 2016, the outlook is that the year will end on a more positive note; three key factors contributed to this:

  1. The Weather

That perennial excuse for retail when sales are poor, the great British weather will inevitably play its part this year and whilst the odds on a White Christmas are not good, the best conditions – clear, crisp and dry – look like they will prevail.

  1. Brexit

Any self respecting article these days needs to include comment on Brexit and it appears that although our pound abroad is suffering this of course means the reverse is true for tourists coming to London. And those from China, the Middle East and the US are especially prevalent. Coming here because of the weak pound but also preferring London to other European cities – the events in Paris and Brussels for example having a positive impact on the increase seen in visitors to London. And of course, what of the Trump factor? First indications are that this will have a positive effect.

  1. Experiential shopping

The West End is home to many leading brands’ flagship stores and visits to the likes of Apple, John Lewis, Hamleys, Polo Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors new flagship store on Regent Street bear this out. More use of personalised offerings and bespoke products are making the stores more vibrant, dynamic and enticing destinations for shoppers. Whilst online continues to grow apace, as we know, stores still account for the vast majority of transactions.

So, whilst it is true that Brexit remains a worry for many people, the vagaries of the British weather notwithstanding, shoppers generally forget their worries at Christmas and are happy to spend; meaning there’s good cause for optimism.

Add to this the traditional illuminations, traffic free Oxford and Regent Street at various times during the festive period, the night tube service and Black Friday and the signs are that pre-Brexit, this could be one of the West End’s best Christmas periods for a long time.

 

Andrew Busby is ranked 25th most influential UK retail twitter account and founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board. He is a regular contributor to Retail Week and a member of the IBM Futurist programme.

Our Social Selves

Five tips for more effective use of social media

 twitter-retweet

 

Many of us use social media every day of our lives without even thinking about it, we use it in all sorts of ways – to communicate, to publish, to broadcast, to share, to promote – there are many different ways we use it but what does ‘social’ actually mean to us?

If you follow my blog you’ll no doubt be aware that my overriding passion is retail and in this sector, social media is playing an increasingly important role, way beyond what many dreamt possible. So what is social and what does it mean to be ‘on’ social media?

There are many definitions of ‘social’ but to me it describes a state of being, a type of behaviour; one I like: “relating to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations”.

Many of us, I would suggest, have been guilty at some time or other of liking or retweeting an article almost without thinking, certainly not taking the time to actually read it (yes I count myself in that number and have sworn never to do it again). In our haste we miss the point of social media, we broadcast without thinking.

” Generosity of spirit is one of the most powerful ways to engage with your audience”

I’ve learnt an awful lot about social media after more than 6 years on twitter and it seems to me that there is protocol to be followed if we are to make the most of our social (media) lives; I’ve listed my personal favourites below, the last of which may be surprising:

 

  1. Be generous

This means being generous with your thoughts, doesn’t equate to having to agree even though a retweet can be interpreted as a sign of endorsement. Generosity of spirit is one of the most powerful ways to engage with your audience;

  1. Be engaging

It’s been said many time before but worth repeating; always try to add value through opinion, thoughts, ideas or suggestions. Social media is awash with benign, nebulous and sometimes downright crass statements that it is often rewarding to read something which adds real value;

  1. Be personable

By this I mean, be nice; terrible word but in this context it accurately describes how our persona, especially if it is our professional persona, should be portrayed. Social media should always be a friendly, safe environment in which to express and share our thoughts and opinions without fear of retribution;

  1. Be grateful

So it follows that we should be grateful – and that means showing it – to others who engage with us and share our thoughts with their audience.

  1. Be provocative

This may at first appear contradictory with the above however it’s really just an extension of adding and creating value. No one wants to hear the same old same old, being provocative for me means stimulating debate by looking at something from a new, different dimension. Social media is all about debate, learning, finding out so go on, don’t be afraid to challenge perceived wisdom – just do it in a friendly, positive way.

Above all – social is for sharing, whether it be thoughts, content, blogs – such as this one, pictures, video, news – the list goes on. The way in which we conduct ourselves on social defines us.

Finally, if you thought none of this really matters, consider this; according to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 77% of companies use social media to identify candidates for positions.

Think twice before firing off that Friday night tweet from the pub!

 

 

Andrew Busby is ranked 25th most influential UK retail twitter account and founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board

More than just a brand

apple-1

If you follow retail and / or technology, it will not have escaped you that earlier this month, Apple reopened its store on London’s Regent Street. I say store but perhaps the term doesn’t quite do it justice. Rather than seeing it prior to opening, devoid of any customers, I went along a few days afterwards to see what all the fuss was about – armed naturally with my (preferred) Samsung android phone.

First, I should say that I’m not an Apple fan, I just have a natural aversion to the brand; but that doesn’t prevent me from admiring what the computer company has achieved. And Regent Street is the embodiment of that.

What struck me first was not the fabric of the building nor the sheer numbers of people in the store – rather it was what they were doing, or more accurately not doing – which caught my attention. It was more like some sort of convention or networking event. People were standing, sitting, casting their eyes over the latest iPhone, chatting informally with store staff but most of all they seemed to simply enjoy being there.

And then it dawned on me; this wasn’t a shop at all. Yes you could make purchases and carry goods away with you but this was something more, much more than an ordinary store – this was a shrine, a mecca – a cathedral to all things Apple!

OK, so the trees and the bare tables might not be to everyone’s taste and the stools at one end may remind us of primary school as opposed to being an environment in which to part with our hard earned cash but none of this seemed to detract for the faithful.

“Apple understand their Why, they understand why they are in business, they understand what they stand for and the new Regents Street store oozes their Why”

This was where they came to gaze, to enquire, to seek help, to handle, to share, to admire – to be amongst like minded people – this was where people came to honour and revere the brand. Even the layout could be likened to a religious place with tall pillars either side, seating by which to simply come and sit and contemplate and the huge screen at one end admirably mimicked the high alter, drawing in the masses.

As the much admired author and TED speaker Simon Sinek put it in his book ‘Start With Why’, Apple understand their Why, they understand why they are in business, they understand what they stand for and the new Regents Street store oozes their Why.

For a confirmed android user it was all pretty amazing but the message behind it is very clear. Retail brands now more than ever before need to create an experience if people are to visit their stores in numbers again and again. Millennials seek experiences as opposed to simply shopping. They want to be inspired. They want their lives to be enriched. They seek added value in some way or other.

Like it or not, Apple delivers this – and that is why the store should attract many more people – to gaze and simply wonder at what a great in-store experience really looks and feels like.

Andrew Busby is founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board

More than just a brand

 

 

apple-1

 

If you follow retail and / or technology, it will not have escaped you that earlier this month, Apple reopened its store on London’s Regent Street. I say store but perhaps the term doesn’t quite do it justice. Rather than seeing it prior to opening, devoid of any customers, I went along a few days afterwards to see what all the fuss was about – armed naturally with my (preferred) Samsung android phone.

First, I should say that I’m not an Apple fan, I just have a natural aversion to the brand; but that doesn’t prevent me from admiring what the computer company has achieved. And Regent Street is the embodiment of that.

What struck me first was not the fabric of the building nor the sheer numbers of people in the store – rather it was what they were doing, or more accurately not doing – which caught my attention. It was more like some sort of convention or networking event. People were standing, sitting, casting their eyes over the latest iPhone, chatting informally with store staff but most of all they seemed to simply enjoy being there.

And then it dawned on me; this wasn’t a shop at all. Yes you could make purchases and carry goods away with you but this was something more, much more than an ordinary store – this was a shrine, a mecca – a cathedral to all things Apple!

OK, so the trees and the bare tables might not be to everyone’s taste and the stools at one end may remind us of primary school as opposed to being an environment in which to part with our hard earned cash but none of this seemed to detract for the faithful.

“Apple understand their Why, they understand why they are in business, they understand what they stand for and the new Regents Street store oozes their Why”

This was where they came to gaze, to enquire, to seek help, to handle, to share, to admire – to be amongst like minded people – this was where people came to honour and revere the brand. Even the layout could be likened to a religious place with tall pillars either side, seating by which to simply come and sit and contemplate and the huge screen at one end admirably mimicked the high alter, drawing in the masses.

As the much admired author and TED speaker Simon Sinek put it in his book ‘Start With Why’, Apple understand their Why, they understand why they are in business, they understand what they stand for and the new Regents Street store oozes their Why.

For a confirmed android user it was all pretty amazing but the message behind it is very clear. Retail brands now more than ever before need to create an experience if people are to visit their stores in numbers again and again. Millennials seek experiences as opposed to simply shopping. They want to be inspired. They want their lives to be enriched. They seek added value in some way or other.

Like it or not, Apple delivers this – and that is why the store should attract many more people – to gaze and simply wonder at what a great in-store experience really looks and feels like.

 

Andrew Busby is founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board

 

 

Marmitegate – PR gold

 

According to Unilever CFO Graeme Pitkethly, the price spat this week between Unilever and Tesco has been resolved; for now that maybe true but to think that this will be the last time we witness a supplier and a retailer come to blows over pricing would be to kid ourselves. The dye has been cast.

In a nutshell, Unilever wished to pass on a seemingly arbitrary 10% price hike in the cost of its products to the retailers as a direct result of the weakened pound. This of course was to ignore the fact that prices weren’t similarly reduced when the pound was strong (a lesson learnt from the oil companies perhaps?)

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis, ex Unilever Exec of course, wasn’t having any of this and delisted many Unilever products from Tesco online and stocks in store were allowed to dwindle. The stand-off lasted several days but happily, unlike Govia and the RMT, it was resolved before the nation really did come to a standstill, starved of Marmite and PG Tips.

But of course nothing is quite as it appears. Tesco is clearly in a different place today than it was two years ago when Dave Lewis took over at the helm. The brand was toxic and what Lewis realised was that this urgently needed repairing if Tesco were to recover ground in the face of the relentless march of the discounters. Unilever was a heaven sent opportunity.

In a recent interview with retail business consultants PatelMiller, that most respected of retail analysts, Richard Hyman said this;

“The single most important thing that they (retailers) need to do, is to strengthen their brand relationship with their customers”

In this latest dispute with Unilever, it would appear that Lewis has taken this to heart. Whilst the pricing issue was clearly fundamental and needed addressing, by far the most important aspect for Tesco and Lewis was the PR opportunity it presented. Whilst many consumers will know of Unilever, they may not be as likely to know all their brands, much less care. What they care about is the availability of their favourite products – and in the face of a corporate bully, Tesco has stood up for the little man; who would have thought it just two short years ago – Tesco – champion of the consumer?

As has been said many times elsewhere, brands are best.

 

Andrew Busby is a retail specialist, founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board