Let's be honest with ourselves, physical retail adopted the homogenisation and the blandness of 'corporate multiple retailing' long before the internet kicked it in the balls, add to this the constant pressure on rising cost, the not very environmentally friendly splurge of fast fashion and a simple lack of 'retail theatre has forced retailers to look at how to re-invent what was.
The unabated rise of online shopping now via Apps and mobile, along with shopping via social media, and Gen Z (with their parents) using tech platforms rather than the 'Mall' to go and do their shopping, it's obviously a difficult time for retailers, regardless if your'e online or offline.
When it goes wrong for Retail brands (or any company) it's because they tend to lose sight of the 'Why'.
What might seem like a simple question comes with a complex set of answers, and if it goes unquestioned internally leads to erosion of trust, relevance, revenues and of course profits as we can evidence from both JLP and N Brown.
They have held a well known mission statement and brand promise which is 'Never Knowingly Undersold'.
For a time it served JLP extremely well, it did what it said on the brand tin, but this was in a time before the consumer had access to comparison sites, along the plethora of online companies now selling similar products and services across many social media platforms, and of course competitor websites.
By clinging onto this one mission statement they have ultimately provided a race to the bottom price war that they can never hope to win in today's socially savvy, digitally connected consumer driven world.
As mission statements go this does tick all the right boxes, it defines them in terms of the aspirational benefits they want to provide to us the consumer!
However as time has moved on this has without a doubt created an internal mental block!
Externally its empowered the consumer to subconsciously seek out better priced offers and deals, all without the need to go into the JLP store, or website to challenge it.
This is nothing new, we hear this time after time when we hear about retailers who are struggling, when the shit hits the shareholder fan they look to cut cost (employees) and begin the process of leveraging external suppliers, and in this case landlords to help prop up the business, all delaying the inevitable when by and large they may have already shot themselves in the retail foot and are just bleeding out very slowly.
Consumers are a fickle bunch, if you're brand is no longer as relevant as it once was they will go to the next one with whom they 'feel' understands their needs better than you. In the not too distant past brands were the sole custodian of how we perceived them to be, this was primarily driven by brand awareness ad campaigns across all relevant mediums - in simple terms we had little choice but to believe what 'they told us' they were!.
They told us what they stood for and if we 'related' to that message we might be swayed to choose John Lewis over Fenwicks, Debenhams over House of Fraser 'Coke over Pepsi', 'Wrangler over Levi's', 'Nike over Reebok', 'BMW over Mercedes'.
But what happens when the veneer of what you say about you doesn't seem to stack up with what I can now evidence for myself?
The basis of branding messaging is still very much the same, but today social media has opened up our ability to do our own research around those 'brand promises'.
Sir Charlie Mayfield offered a terse reply to an anonymous letter in The Gazette, the John Lewis Partnership’s in-house magazine, last month. Writing under the name Dick Turpin, a member of staff said they were “very confused” to see Rob Collins, the managing director of Waitrose, decide to leave and then receive a seven-figure payoff. “Don’t be (confused),” the outgoing chairman responded. “Rob’s role was redundant and he’s chosen to leave with the redundancy terms he’s entitled to.”