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From strategic store locations to creating value for customers, our latest industry Q&A is with social media guru Jonny from Slaters.
In today's industry where choice abounds for virtually all demographics, understanding your customer and creating value is absolutely key. We catch up with Jonny from Slater Menswear on the challenges in retail currently and how Slater Menswear is tackling them.
What makes your product offering unique and how do you maintain this?
As you’d expect, in my mind Slater’s product is great, otherwise I’d have a tough time creating enticing copy for ads! I get to see the whole process and the thought that goes into it. The variety, the creativity of designs (especially in our ‘modern’ M.R.K range) - is still quite new and something we’re seeing great uptake in as guys get more courage to wear bold suits and show off their personality.
One of our most unique points, and something I’m starting to try to educate people on more through content, is the value we give the consumer. Where we sell a poly-viscose 3 piece suit for £89, other brands can be selling a suit made of the exact same materials (or lesser quality) for double or triple that. Because people see a higher price tag, they automatically think they’re getting a better product - where unfortunately they’re just not getting the value for money that Slaters offer. Being ‘off the beaten path’ (many of our stores are just off the high street) and not ground floor level (providing cheaper rates) allows us to pass these savings onto the customer.
Another unique service we offer is our Free Alterations policy on anything bought from one of our stores or online. With so many different body shapes and sizes, there’s no one size fits all answer - and more often than not, suits rarely fit perfectly ‘off the peg’. So we provide free alterations to make sure guys are 100% comfortable in their new clothes. Expecting people to pay for alterations on top has never felt right to us.
How well do you know your customer? How do you ensure you have an in-depth knowledge of who your customer is?
For our Ecommerce business we have the usual analytics to find out what is selling on the website, same goes for our Social Media - we know exactly who our market there is, what they’re buying and exactly what they like and don’t like.
One of the biggest advantages we have over online only businesses is our 26 physical store locations across the UK. Less tangible as it may be, our floor staff and Managers engage with customers face to face on a daily basis. They listen to feedback and all this gets sent to our Directors, Buyers, Marketing etc - who also visit all 26 stores four times a year.
The real challenge comes from all the cities in the UK having such unique identities, so our regular customers can vary from store to store: the guy in Inverness wants a Harris Tweed blazer and Barbour jacket, where the guy in Manchester wants a modern check Ted Baker, or some tassel loafers! Merchandising keep a close eye on this though, and stock each store as needed.
The retail industry has changed dramatically in recent years - what do you now think are the key skills needed to succeed?
-Old fashioned customer service
-The shopping experience
People blame the rise of the internet, business rates, changing consumer behaviour etc. for struggling but, as problematic as they are, they’re often excuses in my mind. The shopping experience - especially in men’s retail stores - is a chore. Do men hate shopping, or do they just resent their own experience with it? When data is showing men are now spending more on clothes than women, the answer is obvious. Too often we’ve all walked into stores: unable to find a member of staff to help, or the ones you find are disinterested and uncaring.
The fact is, people expect more from visiting retail locations than ever before. Time is their biggest asset, and if they’re taking the time to head your way - you better make it worth their while with great staff, great product and a top class experience. Companies are way too slow to realise this - if anything they’re going backwards. To cut costs they are cutting staff levels, they cut training, and they wonder why things aren’t improving...
We would absolutely agree that people expect more from retail locations these days - we wrote about it in a recent blog post! What do you expect to be the biggest challenges in the coming years, for both your own business and the wider retail industry?
I think the removal of the ‘middle man’ in a lot of industries is going to present some new, and interesting challenges.
Front of mind, for me as a marketer, is thanks to the continued growth of the Internet and its capabilities - anybody can start a business with access to an international market fairly swiftly, which is an exciting concept. However - what you get with such easy access is a lot more people fighting for and demanding the public’s attention.
People’s resentment of advertising and companies appearing in front of them constantly has been an issue for a while, and I really think we’re reaching breaking point with that. Companies, traditional retailers especially, are going to have to get smart with how they communicate with the consumer. Content Marketing is the current “hot” thing - provide value and connect before pushing them towards a purchase. People will tire of that also though, as it gets more and more saturated.
Can you tell me any brands/retailers that you admire and if so what is it about them that you think they do well?
I’m a huge fan of Nike (pretty much wearing solely Air Max 1’s outside of work) - they’ve just managed to stay relevant for so long that it’s a huge feat. They’re an online powerhouse, a huge part of Sneakerhead culture: partnering up with some of the most interesting and relevant designers out there: Parra, Sean Wotherspoon etc.
Beyond that - they’re masters of the physical retail space. I really want to check out their Flagship store in New York, the Nike House of Innovation 000. On some level, I also admire that they’ve taken a political stance. It’s not necessarily something I personally think brands should get involved in - when it’s such a polarised world plus your staff are likely made up from people with various political stances - but it’s brave and I respect that.
Thanks for your insights Jonny!
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