Breaking out of the cookie-cutter mould

lulu2Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together. – Paul Ryan

There is a lot retailers of all sizes can learn from the small business community. From highly personalised customer service, to geographically influenced product selection; however ultimately one of the most important factors to recognise is the importance of adapting, tailoring and consequently building a retail environment to add to, or fit within, your community. Not simply bringing in a cookie-cutter style approach and expecting a community to adapt around you.

We are seeing this thinking being adopted within the ‘New Myer’ strategy implemented by CEO Richard Umbers. When Myer launched their new Warringah Mall store, Mr Umbers described it as “a new gem in our network that encapsulates everything we’re striving for; it’s relevant, local and personalised.” A community partnership with the Manly Surf Life Saving Club and a ceramics display by artists from the local TAFE, as well as an instore cafe, The Break, taking inspiration for its menu and design from local beaches, were among the key localisation initiatives reflecting the northern beaches lifestyle and community.

Taking this positioning of a local retailer, knowing and respecting the environment you’re in and giving back to the community, ultimately builds a stronger sense of loyalty and pride for the consumer towards the retailer.

Active-wear brand Lululemon’s recent flagship launch in London, proves that no matter the size of your business, acknowledging and adapting to your environment and community is a powerful tool for engaging and relating to your customer.

lulu6Lululemon Athletica, has grown rapidly since it was founded in 1998. It overcame an embarrassing setback in 2013, when the “unacceptable level of sheerness” in its Luon yoga pants forced it to order a mass product recall. The $2 billion-a-year company opened its first London store in Covent Garden in 2014, but the Regent Street opening represents a massive statement of ambition in the UK.

The two-level, 6,344-sq.-ft. store is the brand’s second largest in the world, second only to its 11,500 sq ft New York flagship.

Designed by Dalziel & Pow, London, the new Lululemon combines the latest in technology with a locally-inspired design and community experiences. A palette of greys and marbles with hints of bronze help make for a soothing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

Some of the store’s key features are listed below:

  • An upfront concierge desk welcomes entering shoppers with such personalized services as in-store product support and directions to the best local yoga studios, as well as recommendations to nearby cafes,  running routes and tourist attractions.
  • Large digital screens, situated behind the cash desks on each floor, showcase product stories and films about store “ambassadors.”
  • A special interactive fitting room in the fitting room area allow shoppers to see the reflective technical elements of Lululemon’s products. Once inside the room, laser beams highlight the reflective elements in the surrounding mirrors
  • A digital art installation, located near the fitting rooms, detects movement from the yoga mat positioned in front. The life-size screen creates colorful digital “sculptures” from shoppers’ own yoga poses
  • A dedicated community space “curated to create a relaxed atmosphere and sense of belonging”  includes an area for complimentary yoga classes and a café by Neat Nutrition, an all-natural protein brand.
  • The ground-floor features a collaboration with MA fashion students from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

As we see more and lulu5more customers, especially millennials, seeking to invest in experiences and stories over simply products, valuing the experience of ‘participating’ in a product more than simply the fact of owning of it, it is time more retailers started to consider their position within the communities they are part of. As we see more international players enter the Australian market, community-centric retailing is going to become a defining factor for Australian retailers to build brand loyalty and ultimately sustainable profitability in the long run.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group and can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or [email protected]Vikki Weston, co-author of this column, is part of Retail Doctor Group’s Retail Insights team and can be contacted via email at [email protected].

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