This blog first appeared in Retail Week written by Ajaz Ahmed
We’re exposed to a mountain of visual stimuli everyday. The power of observation is a great gift and I love walking around shops, it gives me great inspiration. I love looking at how great retailers practise their art and I learn something new every time a walk around a shop. It’s the details that make the biggest difference, the lighting, the colours, the fonts, the visual merchandising and great design.
I love walking around Hollister even though I’m never going to buy anything. I’ve noticed that they have the best sound system in the high street, does that make a difference? Yes, I don’t feel like leaving. I love the copywriting that stores like IKEA and Pret use to entice their customers. I was in heaven when recently visited a Whole Foods supermarket in the US. I felt like buying things that I didn’t even need - what a truly clever retailer.
I love looking at newspaper adverts, it’s amazing how advertisers manage to grab your attention when they only have a few seconds to do it in. I love looking at websites to try and figure out how companies like Amazon make the experience of visiting their site so much better than their competitors. I love reading books and magazines to learn how people and companies achieve their success.
If there is so much to learn from other successful companies, why don’t more people learn by observing? Do they walk around their World blind?
I’ve visited some appalling companies in my time and I could cry when I see them making simple basic mistakes. If I asked the senior managers of these companies “how’s business?” they’d probably say it’s a struggle and list all the reasons why, but they’d never admit it’s their fault.
I’ve always wanted to ask senior managers at WH Smith, “what do you see every time you walk around your stores?” I think it’s a visual mess and other than fixed price products, everything you sell is available cheaper within walking distance of most stores. If they stood and watched the people walking into their stores at lunchtime they would observe that people buy food and drink somewhere else and newspapers and magazines from them.
It’s the same at Argos, it not a great in-store experience and did they real need to hire expensive consultants to advise them that the future for them is the Internet?
Why do struggling retailers not learn by comparing themselves to other successful retailers? When they go shopping don’t they ever ask themselves, “Why do I shop here? Why do I look forward to coming here?”
We have some fantastic retailers but we also have a lot of awful retailers, it doesn't matter what sector your business is in, there’s a lot to learn from good retailers.
The solutions to most of your problems are all around you. Simply open your eyes and take a good look around, don’t walk around your business with your eyes shut.
Go shopping and don’t buy anything, just look and take it all in, be inquisitive, be curious. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll see.