New look for retailers’ survival

By Stephen Spitz, November 4, 2013
Retailers must not neglect the value of quality products, smart window displays and online sales, says Spitz

Retailers must not neglect the value of quality products, smart window displays and online sales, says Spitz

What does the word retail mean today? How does someone survive in a world totally different to the generation of successful entrepreneurs who started out in the 1950s and 1960s?

The principles of hard work, passion and focus are still vital, but the expectation of support from banks, friends, and family members is often a myth.

A retailer with limited resources has to make smart decisions in a slick and fast-paced environment that runs 24/7 to cater to online trading hours.

When I started out in 1987, aged 22, I was very fortunate. My father David, the former co-owner of Kurt Geiger, was my mentor. As well as passing on the ethics of business, he had connections and a top track record with the banks. It meant that bank managers would see us, take a view and give me a helping hand.

Now investors need more assurance. They need statistics, spread sheets and a 10-year business plan before looking in your direction. Sadly previous achievements and gut feel count for very little.

Today, the decision-making power lies with the back room team in credit and only to a small degree with recommendations from the bank manager.

Yet, I still believe that there is opportunity for retailers in our continuously changing environment.

The basic retail fundamentals remain the same: great customer service, affordable products and innovation. Many retailers dedicate their resources to the web over their stores.

The demise of book shops, blockbusters and HMV reflect the fact that owners were blinkered. It was clear that with the growth of digital they had no future, but executives did not offer anything exclusive or innovative.

Without making changes, retailers might as well pull the shutter down.

The need for the retailer to make margin is often still not fully appreciated.

There is also a need to supply customers with targeted products, while providing a slick in-store experience, otherwise consumers will not return.

Retailers cannot survive without the online market, from building databases to sending out e-mail newsletters to customers, all while maintaining exciting window displays.

High speed connectivity has given businesses the ability to adjust prices with just one click of a mouse from anywhere in the world and at any time of the day. Instead of focusing only on the top line price, however, retailers need to outperform competitors with the top-notch shopping experience.

From experience, I have learnt to never under invest or live one day to the next trying to survive. Rather concentrate on the business detail very closely and put a workable, focused strategy in place.

Invite in consumers and then ruthlessly, professionally and with integrity execute all of the above.

Stephen Spitz is the CEO of Case Luggage, one of the largest travel goods companies in the UK

Last updated: 5:25pm, November 4 2013