retail marketing strategy, consulting assignments, executive workshops, conferences and research services, merchandising ideas, advertising ideas, consumer behavior, shopper behavior, shopper marketing, shopper insight, retail e-commerce

Jul 31, 2009


The Body Shop, QVB.  Positioning for the growing interest in fair trade.  Perhaps not communicated as clearly as it could be for a cluttered mall environment,  a complex issue.  This would perhaps have been better served with a clear retail offer, to draw attention to this issue in today's trading environment.

13. Why We Buy - Influencers #consumer

We all love to believe we are wonderfully rational buyers, carefully weighing up attributes such as price and quality against our needs, and then making an optimal decision, as though all products and services were commodities. The reality in our time-pressured age is we are 'satisficers' open to influence from a wide variety of sources, looking for solutions which meet most of our needs.

However, the nature of these influences is changing rapidly. Social media, for example, means we pay much more attention to the views of relative strangers, with whom we have only a fairly superficial relationship. Why ? Obviously this is a complex topic, but here's one idea - isn't it ironic that as the cost of doing research (information search) has come down dramatically, and we are faced with a plethora of choice - the importance of personal influence is increasing ? What influences your buyers ? It should be simple. Insight pays.

Jul 30, 2009


Kikki.K Broadway. A great take on using the winter weather and the icy recession to 'stay in'. This chain has a high standard of presentation. Well worth a visit.


(Oxfam, Broadway) Saving the world, one shop at a time.  Oxfam have certainly set new standards for not for profit retail stores - this is eye-catching, warm and friendly. They deserve to do well.


Smiggle, social stationery store, Broadway.  Striking LCD of new range of fun stationery - just happens to coincide with Harry Potter movie release :)  and the school holidays.  They use their windows very effectively, by far the best exponents I have seen of window LCDs.


Diva, Broadway, Wed pm.  Consistently good traffic at this store, selling cheap costume jewellery.  A winning formula in these times, the store was by far the busiest in the mall, per sqm.

Jul 29, 2009


Connor, Broadway. This menswear store (chain) looks to be in serious trouble. Owned by the Retail Apparel Group (which also owns other menswear chains Tarocash and Yd) they are continually having to drop their price points. A month or two ago, they even advertised their sustained new, lower prices ('Look New Prices'), which I thought was a questionable strategy. Now, they are still well into sale mode when most other apparel retailers are out of it. Also, the price points on their sale merchandise just seem to get more ridiculous by the week. For example, the sale rack (now advertised at $19.95), was previously $29.95, and the original RRPs on the goods were probably north of $39.95 and $49.95. Also, the table, front and centre, which is the most valuable merchandising space in the store, is given over to $29.95 sale merchandise, as opposed to new arrivals, which one would expect to see in stores at this time. I don't believe the numbers can be adding up ok for this operator which pays mall rents and labour costs. I suspect their pricing strategy has not helped their situation. Watch this space.

12. Why We Buy - the Occasion

We were recently invited to an engagement party - a close family member, it was going to be a special occasion and a wonderful celebration. Quite interesting to consider all the purchases (just for us) around this single event - the gift, some new clothes, entertainment, meals, drinks, telephone calls, greeting cards, cab fares and so on. Many people buy for occasions every day - not all of these purchases are gifts. Are you exploiting the opportunities presented by the occasions your customers have in their lives ? How well do you know them ? It should be simple. Insight pays.

Jul 28, 2009

When Edgy Meets Obscure

(Just Jeans and General Pants, East Gardens).

Sometimes I wonder whether fashion chains (and perhaps retailers in general) suffer from a disconnect between their marketing department and their shoppers. Take a look at these windows. I believe most shoppers 'just wouldn't get it' - not that I really 'get it'. While I understand that fashion brands need to appear 'edgy' to their customers, these seem to fall into the 'seemed like a good idea at the time' basket. What WERE they thinking ?

Jul 26, 2009

11. Why We Buy - Learning #consumer

I learn a lot by observing my own behaviour and reflecting on why I made certain decisions.  I then use this as an hypothesis that I test out further. I recently developed an interest in RC (radio controlled) aircraft - ok, big boys' toys and all that :) - but decided I needed to buy a basic model at under $100 before I would invest 'seriously'.  Speaking to other would-be enthusiasts, in this and other areas, I discovered this 'considered learning' was quite commonplace.  Later, I realised I was applying this to other categories, even fashion, especially consumer electronics, where I perceived the purchase decision as risky: Buy something cheaper, with the aim of learning before you invest in something more substantial.   Consumers love to learn.  Do you make it easy for them to learn about your products and services ?  Does your product or service range provide them with graduated choices ?  It's simple.  Insight pays.


Cue, QVB, Sydney.  Stylish summer presentation that stands out.


Flight Centre, TGV, Sydney.  Good example of clever use of tight space and unusual store envelope in a high foot traffic environment.  


Novo footwear, TGV, Sydney.  Relatively unusual window display for a shoe store, but attractive.


David Jones, Sydney.  Attractive window promoting trans-seasonal merchandise.

Jul 25, 2009

10. WHY WE BUY - FUNCTION #consumer

At first glance, this is a no-brainer - of course we buy 'stuff' because of it's function. I learnt a few years ago that something's function is not always obvious. I was feeling vaguely guilty about having spent $300 on a blown glass vase which, while beautiful, had no obvious function. It couldn't even hold some flowers properly :). A wise friend, who has to be the least materialistic person I know (organic farmer, green, anti-establishment), asked me if it gave me pleasure when I looked at it. When I said 'yes' he said 'then that's it's function'. How many marketers know the true function of their products or services ? It should be simple. Insight pays.

Jul 23, 2009

Mainstream Fashion Unravels

(East Gardens, General Pants, Katies, Jeans West, Just Jeans). A visit to the mall this afternoon left me wondering whether mainstream fashion retailers really understand where their customers' heads are at. Have a look at this selection of windows from well-known brands on the Australian retail scene, targeting a wide spectrum of the so-called mainstream mid-market for apparel.

What struck me is that none of them has a compelling message or offer. We are in the middle of the worst recession anyone can remember, and customers have been used to seeing '50% to 70% off' sales every week. This is not to suggest that is what retailers should be doing at this point. All credit to retailers who feel they can move away from this 'consumer drug' - the road to ruin for many a mall retailer.

My question is this - is there no news ? eg. new season or product lines ? Are there no value offers (to be fair Jeans West had advertised $65 jeans, but very 'quietly') that can catch the imagination of shoppers ? Where is the call to action ? I understand we are in a trans-seasonal (or transitional) period) - but it does seem there is a single lack of imagination amongst retail marketes in this sector. Let me know your thoughts.

Add Image

Smiggle Goes Bats

Smiggle, East Gardens.  Clever use of Bats merchandise range to pick up on the current Harry Potter hype. 

Jul 22, 2009

9. WHY WE BUY - PLEASURE #consumer

Hedonism is not very fashionable in the currently austere times. But it remains a key motivation for purchase - sometimes the act itself is what gives the pleasure, sometimes the purchase, sometimes both. Fashion purchases obviously tap into hedonism. How are you modifying the hedonic value or appeal of your product in light of the current frugality ? Is hedonism dead or just in hibernation ? Are there new expressions of this ? Does your customer look for fun and enjoyment ? It should be simple. Insight pays.

Jul 21, 2009


Dick Smith store, George St Sydney - very impressive sanctuary for the man - I especially liked the clean cut lines in the layout, the express area (for photo printing and CD burning) and the way supporting signage in store provided 'navigation' and 'reassurance'. Even guys need those from time to time :)


POS display Georg Jensen, QVB. Luxury takes a markdown. Can the brand recover from this ?


Photographic and print gallery, top floor QVB - great lighting display and ambience.

8. WHY WE BUY - THE PROBLEM #consumer

Ok, maybe this is mainly a male shopper thing - that being a sometimes useful minority segment of the market. Perhaps not. Have you ever been accused (politely) of being on 'a shopping mission'. Normally this is when you have a specific problem to solve - for me this might be 'I need a new screwdriver to assemble the kitset furniture otherwise my weekend will be toast'. Most supermarket shoppers shop to solve a problem. The thing is, this type of shopping is quite different - we are 'goal-directed', supposedly less open to persuasion, often have a list and so on. Involvement in the process is low, often driven by habit or inertia. But there are opportunities to make the 'chore' a 'joy' - the surprises that delight a customer when they realise the marketer understands what they are trying to achieve, and makes it easier. Good brands do this - they reduce the risk associated with the purchase. Do you make it easy for your customers to solve their problems ? Do you even know what they are ? It should be simple. Insight pays.

Jul 20, 2009

7. WHY WE BUY - THE SENSES #consumer

How does your product or service captivate the senses ? Walking through a busy mall today, many of the standout stores were those which engaged the senses. Obviously, sight is the most frequently engaged, followed by sound. But what about smell and taste ? Those retailers who do, like Lush (see below) and The Body Shop had previously had the non-food 'aroma' category to themselves, but now increasing numbers of retailers are infusing the mall. It would be interesting to see a retailer who successfully balances all the senses. It should be simple. Insight pays.


Lush, QVB mall. Their formula is always a feast for the senses. Even if you are not in the category for cosmetics, the rich colours and aromas will captivate you.

Jul 19, 2009


We've all experienced it - we go out for a coffee on the weekend, just relaxed, no intention of buying anything, and then we come across something we have been looking for for a while, or a product that simply catches our imagination. There is a real pleasure that comes from this almost hedonistic activity. Savvy retailers know how to capitalise on this mood through interesting windows, cool websites, in-store demonstrations, or conversing in a non-threatening manner, not trying too hard, or merchandising the store like an 'Aladdin's Cave'. It happened to me today, and I only just managed to avoid buying the portable pizza oven 'I just had to have'. However I am sure I will be back, but in more rational mode. Check your merchandising and marketing approach to ensure you have something for the 'serendipitists' amongst us. It should be simple. Insight pays.


The Essential Ingredient, kitchen shop, Pacific Highway, Crows Nest, Sydney. An impressive shop when you walk in, and a destination for foodies and kitchen mavens (I'm not one :) ). Great ambience, and good organisation for the front of the store, good use of colour. They manage to avoid the clutter of a lot of kitchen shops through clever use of packaging and merchandising. However, it's almost as though they ran out of money - as the back of the shop is very basic and feels a bit neglected. Still, good product range and service with a smile made the visit worthwhile. I even bought something ;)


Title, Willoughby Rd, Crows Nest, Sydney. A branch of one of my favourite stores, selling mainly arthouse music and movies. I like the clean lines and simplicity of this store, making for an easy and relaxed, 'discovery' type shopping experience. Worth a visit, take money.


Useful definition here on what the Consumer Psychologist does ...albeit a quite technical definition :)

Consumer psychologists study people’s emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses to a wide variety of stimuli including advertisements, packaging, marketing promotions, communications, products, services, and experiences. From these studies the consumer psychologist can help decision makers determine design and development changes that will produce an improved consumer response and produce an increase in sales.

Jul 17, 2009

5. WHY WE BUY- GIVING #consumer

The gift market is one of the toughest categories to define and manage. What constitutes a gift ? Well, anything... Who buys gifts ? Well, almost anyone...... However, the joy of giving (as opposed to the chore of buying a gift) is a powerful emotion and creates all sorts of positive opportunities for brand association. In today's markets as consumers have re-evaluated their consumption, so have the dynamics of gift-giving changed. Do your customers value gifts with social benefits (eg. sponsoring a child, planting a tree, carbon offsets and so on). Have you asked them what is important to them ? It might surprise you how much people love to give. It should be simple. Insight pays.

Jul 16, 2009


Perfume Connection, East Gardens, blokes' new Diesel fragrance. Simple and clear.


Tree of Life, East Gardens - summer season launch - a bit 'alternative' in a natural way. Colourful and interesting.


Smiggle, East Gardens. Interesting concept - energise (through colour and simple design) and organise your life. More mass market than KikkiK, but effective through use of limited colours and colour blocking in merchandising.


Lorna Jane, womenswear, East Gardens. An unusually upbeat 'sale' sign - great for these times. And the staff member was smiling as well :) Even better .....


Katies, womenswear, East Gardens.  This is a very interesting example of mixed signals.  On the one hand, announcing 'new arrivals' is very important in retail (new-ness sells),  and especially in fashion with the new season.  Also to their credit, Katies has enlarged the size of the prices, which should appeal to their older, budget-conscious shoppers.  This something which a surprising number of retailers have failed to do in the recession.  The black on yellow is visible from some distance away, which is obviously positive.

However, the questionable aspect of this is that yellow and black (taken together) signify 'sale'.  So while they are signalling 'value' they are also communicating that the merchandise is 'distressed' which detracts substantially from the 'freshness' of the merchandise.  In my view this undermines their ability to secure a good margin on the product.  

On balance, crude, not pretty, but probably effective.  However it certainly doesn't take the brand anywhere positive.


EB Games Moore Park. Not the most welcoming entrance. Also,this
category in a lot of pain.

4. WHY WE BUY - IMPULSE #retail #consumer

Anyone with kids understands how supermarketers have long been savvy at exploiting our willingness to buy on impulse. But a closer look shows this is a deep need amongst many shoppers - the 'urge to splurge' or treat ourselves in a spontaneous way. Fashion stores, especially in womenswear, are adept at having the hottest goods on the front rack or table, to catch the eye of the passer-by. The 'add-on' sale, source of much incremental profit for retailers, is typically presented or proposed at point of sale - in the case of fashion, accessories or co-ordinated offers. I have a theory that impulse works in ALL categories and channels - I love to discuss this with you - have you thought about how the need to satisfy impulse can generate incremental sales for you ? It should be simple. Insight pays.


Hardy Bros Jewellery, Chatswood Chase, Something doesn't quite work with how this upmarket jeweller is advertising its sale. I like the effect of the changing colour windows, though, they get attention in busy mall and foot traffic environments.

Jul 15, 2009


Most of this audience lives in an affluent society where the commoditization of shopping has become like the 'botox' of retail. Every week (or more frequently) we go out seeking our 'fix' to satisfy our wants. For years marketers have sought to define their brands in terms of self-expression, and many consumers do identify with that. As markets have fragmented, diversity has blossomed, and the range of individual expression has increased exponentially. Establishing the 'sign value' of their brands, has become an increasingly tough job for marketers. Relevance and cut-through have become a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. What 'sign value' is important to your customers ? How do you present that in your retail (including online) offering ? Because opportunities for self-expression do prompt changes in shopping behaviour. Increased sign value increased involvement. It should be simple. Insight pays.


Hype Shoes, Market St Sydney. Innovative, quirky attempt to drive customers online and great use of 'dead' frontage where the complex is being refurbished.

Jul 14, 2009


I live near one of the most individualistic suburbs in the world - Surry Hills, Sydney. We all love to believe we are individual and unique. And while that may be the case it is a scientific fact that we are all more alike than we are different. Peer pressure and conformity is not only an adolescent phenomenon. The need to Belong to a group, and fit in, is a very powerful driver of human behaviour, and this affects how we buy as well. Whether it's the tribe, the sub-culture or it's latter day manifestation, the Community, there are rich rewards awaiting marketers who understand this. Social media especially Twitter and Facebook tap into this rich vein. What tribes or communities do your customers belong to ? Do they have a unique language and set of norms ? How does it influence their purchase decisions ? It should be simple. Insight pays.

Jul 13, 2009


KikkiK, East Gardens with a humorous take on their sale (sail).  Quirky but effective.


EB Games, East Gardens, STILL in sale mode - while the numbers can't be pretty the store looks pretty claustrophobic.


Adairs, homewares and soft furnishings, East Gardens.  Not the best look, and not up to their usual high standards of visual merchandising. 


Riot! Art and Craft, East Gardens mall. Striking and appealing treatment for the front of the store - speaks to the brand and what it stands for.


Ok, all of those who did psych papers at college remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs. They form the bedrock of our motivations - physical security, warmth, food, shelter and so on. Yet they are almost taken for granted in developed societies. However, the GFC is just the scenario to re-focus consumers on these fundamentals of life. Surprising, then, that marketers don't have quite the same focus. Who will be the first to deliver to these needs in a compelling way ? It should be simple. Insight pays.

Jul 12, 2009


Coles, Surry Hills. The new merchandising and in-store marketing approach being adopted by Coles has a focus on 'savings'. It includes a quite effective 3 for 2 offer, and good use of a scissors price cut device throughout the store. This has no doubt mostly been financed by suppliers. Also of note is the more effective merchandising of the rear corners of gondolas to break straight lines and capture attention. There is a good use of reminder signage throughout the store. The colours are true to the Coles brand and signify value. This is a good illustration of how the in-store experience can be significantly lifted without spending capex. Long overdue, it suggests a change of management thinking, upping the competition stakes. It will be interesting to see if it can be sustained.