An email debate on the above initiated by Harris – Managing Director of Witco the chain of luggage speciality stores down south

My apologies for the delay in putting my comments thru, but here goes for whatever!

Books on Retail as well as case studies from a European & American perspective, may share substantial information but the education is still awaited since application is still some years away.

I endorse Mani’s views on Blanket appreciation.

Anaggh Desai

Dear Harris:

I have admired the book WHY WE BUY and PACO’s company Envirosell’s keynote presentation in the U.S. around the time the book was published.

He reminds me of author Steven Covey. If you’ve read ‘7 habits of. . . . . . ,” then you have read all his books. Similarly, with Richard Carlson (Don’t sweat the small stuff. . . . . .)

Let’s not give a ‘blanket appreciation credit’ to everything he says. Paco’s intense and empirical study of customers’ behavior in different store categories, over a period of time has given the insights, as mentioned in his first book. Based on that alone, he seems to extend his and the book’s (brand) value on to other areas of retailing.

I wouldn’t apply and go only by his words in my retailing efforts.

Cheers,

Mani

R D & M
Mani Retail Design & Merchandising Pvt Ltd W: www.rdandm.com

Paco Underhill evening…24th April ‘07 Banglore

On invitation of MINDSCAPE / Technopak India

Paco’s talk on the science of shopping with my comments in blue below:

Visual Communication is getting to be the most powerful of all other forms in recent times.

· But there is a huge overload, – clutter, therefore intense competition

· Age takes its toll on the eyes. The 40+ do not see fonts or colors as any youngster does.

Unfortunately these are not given adequate weight age in design of visual communication.

At WITCO we have always had this battle of fonts and effective colors too with our eminent consultants. Though we all talk of the younger generation the 40+ remains the most significant part of the current clientele for us. Only six words for an outdoor message is again a battle!

MANI: 40 + VISION ARE AROUND 25% IMPAIRED. AS THIS HAPPENS GRADUALLY, PEOPLE DO NOT REALIZE IT (THIS IS A KNOWN AND OFT- REPEATED BY OTHERS TOO IN THE U.S.)

AD: Whilst we speak about the youngest consumer base for Jewellery retail etc. the fact remains that the big ticket is 35+ & hence PICTURES are more important than WORDS

Signs can be grossly misleading or confusing. An arrow pointing upwards means – go ahead or above??? Paco is certain that a good navigational aid signage package should enable one to walk through without stoppage and yet reach the precise destination. Be it a store, mall or hospital! Therefore positioning, font size, colors symbols etc. all are critical.

An hour before this talk I went to one of my favorite book stores on Residency Road Bangalore. The poster message on the side entrance door shocked me! “This store will close today” in two lines. I could not read the third line as I was walking in opening the door by then. The alarming news made me let go of the door step back and read the third line….. “At 7.30 PM”.

MANI: YES, YOU’RE RIGHT INDIANS ARE NOT SENSITIVE TO TIME -ESPECIALLY OTHERS’ TIME, NOR THEIR COMMITMENT TO TIME. HUMANE RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY IS AMISS EVEN AMONGST THE EDUCATED INDIANS.

AD: Mani, whilst this is partly true, why is it that the same Indians are different when they step outside their country? Positioning; Font size; Color Symbols all are critical – but tell this to the limited nos of Signage Makers in this country – Answer “Alukabond in grey & then veneer with color” which is used from the Top most retailer to the neighborhood Kirana store.

Men designing stores for women are sore point with Paco.

I have heard him say that before. In Kolkatta when he visited India the first time and also before that at

NRF convention in New York, a little after his best seller became the bible for Retail Communication. One sure need to be sensitive to different consumers but not being sensitive to needs of your primary clientele is unthinkable. All of us have read enough of Venus & Mars and how people from different planets process information and convey their thoughts. Since most of us live with spouses from another planet this should not be so difficult to understand!

MANI: A VALID POINT. RECENTLY WE HAD ENCOUNTERED THIS WHILE DESIGNING RETAIL DESIGN CONCEPT SCHEMATICS FOR LINGERIE + INTIMATE APPARELS! BUT, THEN IN INDIA MOST DESIGN HOUSES DO HAVE SEVERAL WOMEN MEMBERS. RD&M HAS 40% WOMEN IN BLR, HYD & MUMBAI.

AD: Maybe true for most of the Large; multi locale Retailers, designers but not true for unbranded, semi branded retailers that out sell organized retail. A case in point being layout of a Lingerie+Intimate apparel store/s in the unorganized retail designed by; maintained by; sold by ‘Kachhis’ (AND Mani I can Prove this to youJ)

The big threat may be outside your industry. Share of wallet monitor is key.

People more “Time Poor” than “Money Poor”. Therefore the products which most clientele need to pick up in a rush must be conveniently located.

Retail needs to pay attention to where you loose money – poor productivity areas and put in corrective measures.

MANI: CUSTOMERS SHOULD GET TO FEEL / PERCEIVE CONVINCINGLY THAT YOUR STORE SAVES TIME. THEY FEEL THAT TIME SAVED AND TIME SPENT WELL IS TIME SAVED. STARBUCKS SAYS THEY ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF VENDING TIME -QUALITY TIME. THEY’VE FIGURED OUT, ON AN AVERAGE A CUSTOMER SPENDS 20–25 MINUTES.

Energy Saving – Companies like Wal Mart have proven that there are huge benefits at hand by using energy saving devices. Big investments which pay back in a year!

At WITCO we have been working on this for more than a decade. Initial efforts actually lost money! The high initial costs without the promised quality were the problem. Energy saving and environmentally friendly “VAC” air conditioners also proved a disaster due to politically controlled fuel costs. Currently 90% of our fittings & equipment are energy- saving/efficient ones.

MANI: I REMEMBER YOU FOCUSING ON THIS, EVER SINCE I’VE KNOWN YOU (1995?). THIS ASPECT IS YET NOT FULLY RECOGNIZED NOR UNDERSTOOD OR MADE AVAILABLE PRACTICALLY.

AD: Time Poor or Money Poor = our different Stores located in Malls; High Street give different results & feedback. We are yet to evaluate this. Energy Saving plays an important role that we are constantly evaluating & have been able to note a quantitative difference from store 1 to store 13

Mirrors – For the younger generation the “mobile” is a fashion accessory and not just a communication device. They need mirrors to check out “the look”

At WITCO, we have found even 40 + Martian’s (Men) like to check out ‘’their look” with the new port folio in hand. So, mirrors are definitely not for clothing, footwear, cosmetics, Jewellery alone.

MANI: TITAN UNDERSTOOD THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ‘MIRROR-FIGURE’ IN 1990-91 AND INSTALLED A FULL FIGURE MIRROR. YES, ALL CUSTOMERS ARE NARCISSISTIC AND THEY WOULD LOVE MIRRORS AND THEMSELVES.

AD: Completely agree with both of you.

Self-Service need not be for self-service stores alone. Almost any store can be designed for partial self-service.

At WITCO we have added shelf talkers, specs sheets, feature highlights, navigational aids – all in relatively small stores to address this. After all you cannot staff the store based on the needs of some 30 minutes a day when you may have customer’s out numbering the store team. So, this is an absolute necessity for us!

MANI: I LIKE WITCO’S APPROACH OF EMPOWERING SHOPPERS TO DO SELF-SELECTION OR RATHER FASTER PURCHASE DECISION. IN INDIA, MAJORITY OF THE CUSTOMERS WOULD RATHER LIKE TO BE SERVICED, WAITED ON, PAMPERED, CAJOLED, ENTICED AND ENTERTAINED. DON’T TRY TO ESCAPE FROM THAT.

AD: This is a major area of discussion internally for us; however the automation factor seems to be of assistance. But this would be something that we would re visit over the next 2 years & very difficult to pin point at this time.

How come Supermarket aisles are all of the same width? The very high traffic ones need to be wider. A drug store increased sales by 18% by just handing over baskets to people who have more than two three items in hand.

Landmark book stores always do that for me! Many supermarkets, departmental stores do that here in India.

MANI: YES, TRUE.

AD: Sure does not apply to us.

Under store design he emphasized on the importance of lighting. Appropriate lighting can actually make “good products look great”. He also said we need to “prioritize the consumer needs” when designing the store fixtures and merchandising. .

This is an area we fail in, more often. The bane is that more often our “designers” function as “decoraters”unfortunately and we have stores which look good only for 3 hours not 3 years!

MANI: YES, ‘LIGHTING DESIGN’ IS A VERY IMPORTANT COMPONENT IN CONSOLIDATING THE RETAIL DESIGN… PLEASE CHECK TO SEE THE LIGHTING WE’D DONE FOR FIRST CITIZEN, SPENCER PLAZA. THE TIME GIVEN FOR THE ORIGINAL CONCEPT RETAIL DESIGN IS RELATIVELY SHORTER, IN INDIA. –JUST ABOUT 30% OF THE TIME TAKEN IN THE DEVELOPED ECONOMIES.

AD: Single largest factor that currently plagues us. With very little scientific information & consistency available to be applied, it is a major learning element that we are trying to breech.

Amenability equals profits – The need is to be flexible and innovate based on feedback, learning’s, and intuition. Also that in future, outstanding companies will be so not because of “visionary leadership” at the top but “champion contributors” who face the consumer regularly.

My friend and CFO –T.K. Ranganath smiled at this one and told me that I may be guilty of too much amenability / experimentation resulting in looking more like a continuous R & D Lab! – That’s a caution!

MANI: “IF YOUR CUSTOMERS BECOME GLOBAL, YOU TOO NEED TO GET GLOBAL”

-Bhaskar Bhat, TITAN April 2007

AD: Harris, you are true but do we have a choice?

Conversation standing adjacent to the customer (not facing him/her) is a great and effective “ice – breaker”. Products like televisions automatically allow for this.

My son Althaf, a retail management under graduate student of University of Surrey is now working for 1 year at the John Lewis Dept store on Oxford Street, London. He watched a customer walk in and watch the “Penguin Display” at the Christmas decorations department and remarked “Having fun with the penguins?” The customer responded with a laugh, “Ice was sure broken” Paco will approve? His manager sure did! Full marks also for the store system which captured this interaction, enquired with the “trainee” and complimented him.

MANI: I’M NOT FULLY CONVINCED TO APPLY/FOLLOW IN INDIA PACO OR ANOTHER GUY’S INFERENCE IN HIS SOCIO-ECONOMIC-CULTURAL SURROUNDING. FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN WE DID A TITAN/TANISHQ SHOWROOM IN MYANMAR, I CAME TO KNOW THAT EVEN CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE TOUCHED OR PATTED ON THEIR HEAD. THAT’S GREAT INSULT IN THAT SOCIETY!

AD: Whilst Paco’s inference may need to be modified here; our learning has shown that, there is an element of servile attitude that needs to be shown to keep the Jewellery buyers happy!
In Paco’s opinion Indian Retail is trying to move from the 19th to the 22nd century. Rather than studying U.S. and Europe it might make sense to study Brazil, South Africa, Dubai, South Korea, Mexico even Moscow.

MANI: PACO DOES NOT KNOW THAT INDIA HAS SUCCESSFULLY DONE SO IN TELECOM INDUSTRY. EVEN IN RETAILING, INDIA/INDIANS WILL COME UP WITH AN INNOVATIVE MODEL, ON THEIR OWN ACCORD. BUT CURRENTLY, MOST OF THEM SEEM TO APE ‘SOME’ MODEL, SEEKING A SHORT-CUT. AN ORIGINAL AND INNOVATIVE CONCEPT OR FORMAT OF RELEVANCE HAS TO EMERGE AND EVOLVE FROM INDIA AND THAT CAN’T BE FROM OUTSIDE. (NALLI, GRT, SARAVANA BHAVAN, SARAVANA STORES AND SCORES OF OTHERS ELSEWHERE IN INDIA CANNOT BE IGNORED FOR THEIR ORIGINALITY)

AD: This is a classic generalized American statement & hence should not be just attributed to Paco.

Key concepts to look out for are – healthy, ecological and relevance as you plan for the future.

Indian Retail is rightly nervous in this age as their consumers travel the globe and are aware of the best available the world over. Establish a close linkage with the clientele is his advice.

At WITCO being a specialty store with relatively low walk-in but high conversions – the store team is accountable for every walk-in. Customer feedback obviously is optional but Team member’s comprehensive, structured feedback is mandatory. Great way to maintain the link and an invaluable resource for review and planning.

MANI: FULLY AGREE. THE CUSTOMER SERVICE, KNOWLEDGE, PROMPTNESS, SINCERITY, RESPONSIVENESS AND EMPATHY ARE IMPORTANT. THE STAFF SHOULD BE TRAINED TO (BE ABLE) RELATE THE LIFESTYLE, ASPIRATIONS AND DREAMS OF THE SHOPPERS.

AD: Completely in sync with both of you.

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Written by AD
ex waiter, angadia, travel agent, dotcomer, dukaandaar, marketeer, people watcher. appreciates single malt, food, friends