This year’s ERT Turning Point Live! conference, sponsored by Electrical Safety First and hosted by ERT magazine Editor, Jack Cheeseman, was an invaluable source of information on how to meet the opportunities and challenges facing the electrical retail industry.
This is the fifth and final part of our exclusive full review of the sessions from the day…
“Those who innovate and collaborate will thrive”
Chris Buecker, Founder and Chairman of the TCG Summit and CEO of RetailPlus (pictured), used this year’s Turning Point Live! to offer some advice on how electrical retailers can stay ahead of the game and thrive in an increasingly online retail landscape.
A multi-channel, collaborative, creative approach with a strong focus on customer service and in-depth product knowledge and expertise are what’s needed if independent electrical retailers are to beat the big online players and ‘sheds’ – this was the key takeaway from retail expert, Chris Buecker, who flew in from Switzerland to share his extensive experience and put forward his tips for successful retailing now and in the future.
“You have to position yourself as a local specialist and you need a professional store format,” he said. “Mama and Papa stores – the smaller, more old-fashioned stores – are not the future.” He said that successful independents have a “clear, distinguishable business proposition”.
Less is more
“Remember, less is more, so choose your products carefully and don’t have too much on display. Focus on medium to premium-end products and don’t fall into the trap of trying to be the cheapest.”
Mr Buecker added that an online presence is also critical – for a whopping 86 per cent of consumers across Europe, the retail journey begins with an online search. Little more than a tenth of purchases are made through store visits alone, he said.
Investment in people and staff training were also highlighted as fundamental. “If you see [your workers] are good at what they do, trust them and give them responsibility. This all promotes staff retention, allowing you to build a highly skilled workforce that is also more trusted by the consumer.”
Mr Buecker said that successful collaborations between retailers and suppliers focus not solely on the sale but on giving the customer advice and educating them on the product.
“Collaborations often go wrong because the retailer and supplier have different aims. You have to have the right tools to start a partnership and be prepared for it to take time. You have to be prepared to work intensely with your partner suppliers.”
He added that those who can build a good reputation, with strong product knowledge and expertise and a strong and clear brand identity are more likely to excel.
“For example, a retailer in Switzerland styles himself in a white lab coat like a technician might wear. The branding reads ‘Mr Fast’ and the payoff is ‘And it makes it work’. So they are living and inhabiting the brand and they are very knowledgeable; if you buy something at their store and you have a problem, they fix it, if you buy something you need to have installed or whatever, they do it for you. It’s a clear and distinguishable business proposition.”
Mr Buecker also noted that most retailers he has encountered fall into one of two camps – either specialised or full assortment stores with a variation of products. In either case, strong customer service, product knowledge and training are key, as noted above, but also offering an enjoyable or unique shopping experience, so that it’s not only about the purchase but the whole package.
He offered the format of Apple’s stores as an example, and a US company called Beta, which sells motorcycles, but uses a similar method.
“Beta has reinvented, or disrupted, the concept of the classical retail store. There is a showroom, but the supplier runs the show – alongside the products are tablets with all the information customers need. All this can be changed by the supplier from one second to another, so the retailer doesn’t have any influence over that. Likewise, they also don’t need to hold any stock as deliveries come straight from the supplier.
“It’s a very interesting concept – I saw it myself in California – it’s obviously a very hands-off approach and it wouldn’t work everywhere, but it’s very disruptive and it certainly makes you think about the future of retail models in the UK.”