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Mary – Queen of Shops

It happens that I take a well deserved break in the afternoon.

Just like many Spaniards think before taking a siesta, I like to justify this break as something I do to work even better and more efficient afterwards.

I usually take my siesta in my cosy sofa in front of the TV, the head on a pillow, my right hand on the remote control, slowly zapping through the vast offer available through 2 satellite receivers (yes I like football). I do it in a very manly way, which basically means I am not trying to find out what is on TV it is rather to find out what is not on TV… it is all about having a nap anyway.

Quite often I get stuck on Swedish TV 8. At my afternoon nap hour they mainly show reality shows like e.g. British real estates speculates in southern Europe trying to buy their dream house in the year of 2005, just before the financial crisis (cynical)…

Sorry but I'm from Iceland

Some afternoons I have watched (and fallen a sleep to) a BBC reality show called Mary – the Queen of Shops. Mary is Mary Portas who made herself a name in luxury and fashion retail and in this series she is helping retailers in the UK to establish or re-estabish themselves by doing the right things and doing the things right.

Mary Portas

Most of the times I have not seen the whole show (as my true intention was to take nap)…but I started watching this particular episode and I found it so fascinating that I decided to skip the nap and see it to the end.

Mary - Queen of Shops together with the staff of a Surrey DIY store

In this episode Mary Portas deals with Tony the owner of a DIY shop who has lost 60% of his business during the last 3 years, mainly to DIY chains, warehouse retailers and hypermarkets. Tony has completely lost focus and has started to introduce new categories which he thinks that his customers eagerly needs e.g. greeting cards, helium balloons, shoes and live pets. The store is a mess.

Following the progress of Mary trying to explain to Tony why he has to change is professionally interesting but also a bit painful as I think that Tony should be doing something completely different, like selling his business to someone who truly likes it.

This episode includes many important basic elements within the field of retailing and I do share them with Mary:

  • Many retailers want to develop in a positive way but some of them just don’t want (or know how) to change
  • Some just can’t manage to stay focused on the chore business – and become something they were not intended to be
  • How important it is to be obvious and clear on what is your offer regarding products and assortment
  • How to facilitate the shopping experience for your visitors to convert them to customers
  • To invest in knowledge so that your coworkers can do the work which is to serve the customer and to sell as much as possible
  • To be professional in communication and create a clear overview to support the selling process
  • Etc.etc.etc

I have had the multiple pleasure to lecture about international retailing in Copenhagen Business School and stressed that the retailers success is found within:

  • Competitive advantage
  • Merchandising skill
  • Unique format
  • Unique product mix
  • Choosing markets where your advantage is in short supply
  • Training and retaining local managers and coworkers

To see the show and read the description from BBC:

“Retail guru Mary Portas is back and she’s just in time…Mary tries to fix a broken down Surrey DIY store – but the owner seems to have a screw loose! He’s seems to have forgotten the nuts and bolts of his business, and it’s up to Mary to hammer home some sense.

Lightwater Homecare has seen profits plunge 60 per cent in the last three years alone, as people reject this local shop in favour of chain store and big warehouse rivals. But that’s no surprise: owner Tony has lost sight of DIY as he’s introduced greeting cards, party balloons, novelty calendars and even live pets, and his most of his staff could barely change a lightbulb.

Mary’s drive to focus Tony’s business and revolutionise DIY shopping and service comes up against a brick wall of resistance. This vast, sprawling store is the biggest she’s ever taken on, and progress with this owner seems impossible. It’s all a far cry from the mid 80s, when Tony’s company was making millions. He’s now at risk of losing his business and everything he has invested in it – his pension and his home.”

Full episode (in Sweden): http://www.tv8play.se/play/239466/?autostart=true

Full episode (outside Sweden) http://videobb.com/video/eZLZTGeNqewI

Let us know what you think. If your retail business needs improvement, contact us for more details.

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