In business, winning is gaining the hearts and minds of the customers. The intensely competitive retail industry has proven that trends come and go; but companies which can reinvent themselves would survive and thrive.
The Hudson’s Bay started as a fur trading company in Canada in the 17th century. It evolved into a major department store by the 70s. The Bay Days and the Scratch and Save events were popular with its customers. As a youngster, I was always excited to shop on those special promotion days. The company’s fortune took a turn in the 90s. The stores looked dated. There were hardly any sales reps on the floor to help customers. Selections were scanty. I actually stopped shopping there. The company changed ownership along the way. It wasn’t until 2008 when another change in ownership led to the hiring a seasoned retail expert to revive the company. Underperforming brands were discontinued. Chic and luxurious brands were brought in. It is definitely a more interesting place to shop today.
There are three lessons to be learned from Hudson’s Bay’s transformation:
1. Create the purchase environment
The shopping environment determines the clientele your business appeals to. Well lit, simple store layout makes it easy for customers to find the items they look for. Customers have different expectations when they shop in a grocery store, a mega discount outlet, or a luxury department store. A mismatch would lead to a confused mindset on price and value. And yes, dissatisfaction follows. The investment in renovating The Bay stores made a statement that customers could expect a renewed store with fresh choices of new fashion and products.
2. Offer choice options
A poor selection of products is a sure way to turn away prospective customers. When The Bay switched away from the reputable brands in the 90s, it was noted by its customers. I was wondering what happened to its buyers. How could the change be so drastic? Was the company changing its target markets? Today, The Bay has adopted the store-in-store concept so well that the choices are exciting. The stores carry a broad selection of well known brand names for the young and the mature customers. The Topshop offers great varieties for the young. The Room proudly presents top-notch designer wear. It is exciting to see what is new every time I walk through the store.
3. Provide great service
At one point, there was no service rep to be seen on the floor. I could be walking around the area a few times but there was no help in sight. The other employees on the floor were cashiers. There were always lineups at the cashier, making it impossible to get assistance. I ended up leaving. After a couple of repeat experiences, I stopped shopping there. Despite the shift to self-help and the deployment of technology, human interaction is still an important element of great service. Great service is memorable. Customers value the experience.
The Bay is confident that it is working on a winning formula to turnaround an iconic retail dinosaur. The changes are generating results in the right direction. For your business, don’t wait till the business is in a dire situation before initiating a transformation. Be proactive and take prompt action!