Branding Lessons from a Retail Legend

If you haven’t got a passion in your business, don’t do it Roger Saul

What are the building blocks for setting up an indie successfully? Retail journalist John Ryan picks his seven fundamental factors if you’re to stand a fighting chance.

Opening a shop is easy. You know your customers, you know what they want and you’re the person to bring the two parts of this equation together. All of this is probably the case for the great majority of wannabe independent retailers, so why do things go awry?

There are any number of reasons, but here are seven to remember.

1 LOCATION… are the ‘right’ shoppers in the area?

From the outset the single most important element is location. It’s common sense but surprising how frequently independent retailers overlook the basics. When looking at where to rent a unit don’t make assumptions about the local demographic.

Putting cans of car engine oil on the shelves of a store in an area with very low per capita car ownership is unlikely to reap ready rewards. Equally, when it comes to fashion, towns and districts that have a more mature population are not going to favour teenwear, for

2 LOCATION… can you achieve standout, or will you be one of many?

And don’t forget to check out
the local competition. If there are three other shops like the one you are proposing, think again.

Research about an area can be as simple as having a coffee at different times of day in a local café a couple of times a week for several weeks. Do this and the chances are good that you’ll understand the shoppers in an area and whether they’ll want what you intend to offer.

3 LOCATION… cost v footfall

There is also the tension between rental cost and footfall. It’s an inconvenient truth that shops with the highest number of people passing in front of them will be the most costly from which to operate. Yet sometimes, and particularly if a retailer operates at the lower end of the price scale, it may be worth paying more in order to enjoy the shopper volume that will be required for the business to flourish.

4 SHOP SIZE… can you afford to have a meaningful offer in your chosen unit?

Another element is the size of unit. A large shop needs a certain minimum stock level if it is not to feel like a ballroom. Space in a store generally carries connotations of luxury, but too much space and it can feel as if a shop is under-stocked.

5 FIT-OUT… a good idea will always trump expensive shop equipment.

Once all the location boxes are ticked and stock can be afforded, what else is vital? The answer is ‘fit-out’.
Just buying a few fixtures and some second-hand mannequins may seem like the right thing, but unless all of the parts equate to a themed whole, then this is a dog that won’t bark.

Sometimes rough and ready, when set against carefully crafted stock can make for an interesting juxtaposition. There’s more to store design and layout than just ensuring everything has a place – shoppers need to feel a sense of difference and that they are welcome – and don’t forget that lighting can be the difference between very good and less so.

Think of an in-store theme and run with it…

6 NAME YOUR SHOP… this is your brand.

Finally, time spent thinking about what your new venture might be called is essential. The name above a shop door is part of your brand and if this isn’t instantly recognisable, retail oblivion may await.

Your own name may not be enough…