Exclusively Survive and Thrive campaign – what happened next?

The Survive and Thrive competition, run by Exclusively Housewares and Exclusively Electrical in conjunction with Scarlet Opus in 2018, was open to all visitors to Exclusively shows 2018. In the Autumn of 2018, HUUS from Suffolk, was announced as the winner. Huus was chosen for ‘the opportunities it presents, its enthusiasm to take part and its openness to react to and implement the recommendations’.

The initiative offered one retail buyer attendee the chance to benefit from a consultation with trend forecaster, Scarlet Opus. The consultation would review the store’s layout, décor, product offering, website, social media and merchandising and provide recommendations to create a retail environment that is appealing to today’s consumer.

Huus is an independent brand and lifestyle concept store (pictured) that specialises in contemporary home accessories and gifts inspired by North European design.

The Scarlet Opus consultation took place in the Autumn of 2018.

Four months after the consultation and post-Christmas, January Sales and Spring Shows, Exclusively Shows touched base with HUUS and if the prize had had an impact on its business.

Since the visit, have you approached your business differently?

HUUS: One of the key things we discussed with Scarlet Opus was the change in customers’ expectations in terms of their retail experience. As customers can easily buy their products online, the value added of their in-store visit is customer service and their retail experience in terms of inspiration. Customer service has always been at the heart of what we offer having spent many years in the industry elsewhere.

We continue to focus on spending time with our customers, (with the feedback received from Scarlet Opus this is time well spent), if they are looking for advice and suggestions. We know that some will still go back online looking for a better product price, but many place value on their in-store experience making the commitment to purchase with us or returning to make a purchase if it is a larger item such as furniture or lighting.

With regards to your store layout, following the consultation, have you made any changes and have they proved beneficial?

HUUS: We have thought carefully about how we improve the customer experience. One of the projects we are or working on is creating an inspirations hub which will give us an obvious space away from the counter to have styling and advice conversations with our customers. It will also be a space where they can sit and take a look at some of our inspiration sources such as books, magazines and supplier catalogues to help them with some of their interiors decisions. We will also be putting in place a new social media strategy to support our move to be a destination for styling and design inspiration.

How did the knowledge you gained from the visit and recommendation effect your buying decisions at the recent Spring shows you attended?Can you give any examples?

HUUS: We were very focused whilst visiting the Spring trade shows, identifying products that added to our range in terms of styling. We are expanding our range of stationery products so were looking for ranges that would work with our styling.

Can you explain if you have approached your merchandising any differently since the store visit and can you give any examples?

HUUS: We are continually remerchandising the store however we are much more alert to having consistency in the look and feel of the store in line with our branding.

If you can share three tips that you have gained from the visit and recommendation, what would they be?

HUUS:

1. Regularly step back from your business and get input from fresh eyes about your store experience.

2. Keep innovating.

3. Keep strengthening the bricks and mortar customer experience and advice which differentiates the business from online stores

Can you explain one change, since the visit that has made a positive impact on sales?

HUUS: We are excited for the Spring, when we will be completing further actions from the Scarlet Opus report with new stock arriving, some internal redecorations and outdoor product merchandising, when the weather allows. We’ll also be working on our social media marketing strategy and working with other local businesses to increase the town’s profile to generate more footfall.

In addition, we have heard that we have been shortlisted as a Finalist in the Independent Gift Retailer of the Year Awards as Best Newcomer: South & Wales. This is very unexpected but incredibly exciting that we are one of six businesses to be shortlisted.

It has been an extremely valuable experience working with Scarlet Opus. Not only are they leading experts in retail forecasting and trends, they are passionate about sharing their knowledge and experience to support businesses strengthen and grow. Spending time with the team, allowed us to step back from the day to day of the business to look critically and creatively at what we can do to improve our customer’s experience of Huus. We hope to meet up with them again at the next Exclusively Housewares show to update each other on progress and find out what the trends for the next 12-18 months are likely to be.