Friday, October 26, 2018

A Proper Introduction

This week my mum informed me that she was going to Harris Scarfe to look for some sheet sets. She asked if I wanted to come with her, however I declined. I didn’t need sheets and I couldn’t think of anything that I thought the store would offer and which I needed.  But more to the point I’ve never been inside a Harris Scarfe store in my life, despite this store being only 15mins away at my local Westfield mega centre.
It got me thinking about why I knew nothing about this store and had never ventured in. I guess I’ve just never been properly introduced.

A quick google and it turns out the brand is almost 170 yrs old. It was established in Adelaide and I guess that has created part of my problem. I’m up here in sunny Queensland and Harris Scarfe is a bit of a new comer to our state that’s why I don’t really know much about them, none of my family or friends have introduced me.

When you think of shops they could be compared to family. Some of them have been around since our birth- Coles, Woolworths, David Jones, Myer, Kmart, Country Road, Sportscraft etc. (depending upon your age of course) They are like the grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins that we just grow up knowing who they are. They are constants in our life. You can’t even remember when you were introduced, just that they’ve always been there. Then there are our friends in life, perhaps you’ve been introduced via a 3rd person. Some introductions via a 3rd party come with an assurance that you’re really going to like so and so. Sometimes that’s the case and other introductions you just don’t gel.

Of those friends and relatives you work out their individual quirks and whether you get on with them. Some of them you always feel happy when you visit, others you visit occasionally and that’s enough for quite a while. There are the cool cousins and the glamorous aunties and the practical down to earth friends who are always comforting and no matter how long you spend with them, you can’t wait to see them again.

Think about a new store that you’ve ventured into. Did it come recommended via someone you know? Did they tell you about all the cool treasures they’ve found and they think you would like the products too? Or had you seen some really great advertising or social media and it just resonated with you to the point that you wanted to visit?

If you’ve had none of those experiences what do you do when a new neighbour moves in? Do you go and introduce yourself first and hope that they will be nice and reciprocate with warmth? When you meet someone new it’s hard not to make a comparison and think to yourself how much characteristics of them remind you of other people you know. I think we all make a little mental calculation of where that person fits into our social hierarchy. We do the same with shops. We know you can go to store A or B and their prices will be similar with subtle differences in their products or Store A and B will have very similar products with price point differences.

Relationships are double sided. So how does the new retail kid introduce themselves? They can’t just sit around waiting for outsiders to make the first move, they’ve also got to decide who they want to appeal to, be friends with and hang out with. That’s where the marketing gurus step in to become the match makers and introduce us to new friends that hopefully we will have lasting relationships with.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Too Much Choice

Recently the retail world has been talking about the fact that the online shoe company- “Shoes of Prey” has stopped taking orders and are now assessing the future direction for their company. Since commencing business Shoes of Prey has won numerous retailing awards and many accolades.
Many articles have been published since their “pause” asking why this has happened to such an innovative company. There are many reasons being discussed all reasonable and interesting and seem valid, but I am not necessarily focusing on Shoes of Prey and of course I have no insight as to the real reasons, I’m just using them as an example.

Choice in Retail- such a First World issue. From my side of the fence when I am designing shops and retail outlets, my job is to create an interior that becomes part of that choice process and that customers want to choose as a shopping destination. But when I strip the design process back to the bare beginning of the concept, I know that what I am going to present to my client, in response to their brief, will be a carefully narrowed down selection of choices. Everything that I present to my clients is an option that I feel will be most beneficial to the sales and presentation of their range of products. The same philosophy applies when I’m designing for residential clients. After taking their brief and asking many questions about how they live, I present them with a narrowed down range of options that I think will best suit their lifestyle.

I have learnt from my many years of design that too much choice just becomes overwhelming for most people. I will often joke that I don’t take clients into the “candy store”. By this I mean that instead of taking them to my fabric wholesalers or other wholesale showrooms, I bring a narrowed down selection back to my clients. I know from personal experience that the minute you walk into the fully racked and stacked showrooms, you just want it all. You literally feel like a kid in a candy store and so many things catch your eye.

When I go to a showroom I remind myself to stay focused for the jobs that I am working on. I will often go with a list or lug in my finishes selection and concept images (like they say- never shop on a empty stomach). By remaining attentive I can pull together a look that I’m happy with and won’t have become side-tracked in that process.

But the thing is; I’m a professional with 25 years experience. I know how to stay on track, but I also know how to sort through all the delicious array of choices at the candy store and create a great looking outcome.

Which brings me back to my original example of Shoes of Prey. I have never designed a pair of shoes in my life. I know what I like when I go into the shoe shop and try them on and look at myself in the full length mirror. I’ve also learnt that sometimes shoes I see online look very different when I’ve actually got them on my feet.
As fun as it might be to design some shoes I think I’d rather leave that to the shoe industry experts and let them shift through their candy store to come up with the final creation as I would be too scared that my choices will not look that great once I have the final shoes on my feet.

With the fashion industry I’m happy to sit outside the candy store and wait to see what wonderful creations come out to me. I think if I had to choose I would go silly and pick everything in sight and then end up feeling regret after. I’ll leave that to those experts, just as I know people would say the same about my industry.

As much as we all love choice sometimes too much choice can be overwhelming and may even stall the decision process.