Director of Retail Intelligence, Tim Denison, at Ipsos Retail Performance gives his verdict on how two high street brands could have been saved (and offers some food for thought to Dragons’ Den stars Theo Pathitis – who’s expressed an interest in saving HMV – and Peter Jones who has since bought the Jessops brand).
“I think both HMV and Jessops could have been saved,” says industry expert Tim. “What they both needed to offer was an in-store experience that couldn’t be repeated with a click. Neither Jessops nor HMV went far enough to separate these experiences and it is for those reasons that they failed. You have to be able to focus on people being able to touch and feel the product and have staff that are very knowledgeable and provide more information than is readily available on the company website or Google.
“Jessops did play around with making the product more accessible but still cameras were locked behind cabinets and glass screens, camcorders weren’t charged up. That is just not modern retailing. They needed to introduce a showroom experience.
“Look at Apple. They changed the grounds of technology retailing by making the product accessible. All of their products are there to be played and held. They go out of the way to encourage the user to try the product. Soon after Apple’s success, the mobile retailers followed suit and replaced their plastic dummy phones with the real product. And again, they have subsequently been more successful. Jessops just didn’t go far enough.”
There is a downside to showrooming. Retailers have to have more products in store and they can get broken or go ‘wandering’ so it is more costly. But surely that is a risk worth taking because you really offer a shopping experience that the modern day customer can’t get over the Internet?
Tim adds: “One of the biggest failures of HMV, in my view, was not the product itself, but the way the stores were laid out and run operationally. Anyone who has been to HMV at Christmas time will most likely have endured a 10-minute queue to buy something. Given that 30 per cent of their trading is done at Christmas, if you can’t get that right – and people walk out – you will never be in a strong position.
“Not being able to find a product by yourself was also a problem. I found it challenging to find a particular CD -it was never as straightforward as I thought. As soon as I collared a member of staff they were brilliant, even for my eccentric tastes of a Flanders and Swann CD (for my dad I might add). An 18-year-old girl who I would have presumed not to have even heard of them knew exactly what I was going on about and took me straight to what I wanted. The staff training they got right: but the store fit, the operational and queuing practice was poor. The other challenge HMV faced was a lot of their stores were large units. They were not user-friendly stores with long aisles you couldn’t cut across. The strip lightening didn’t create the right ambience to spend time there and relax.
“Multiple retailers must remember that no matter how good a website is, it can’t replace the tangible enjoyment of handling and trying goods for a first-hand shopping experience. Until the high street understands this and sees that they can have the upper hand, we might see more names wandering onto the critical list.”
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