Monday, 14 December 2009

Jimmy Choo's or Shoe Zone?

We’ve had the Kate Moss collection at Top Shop , Lily Allen for New Look and recently H&M featured a special Jimmy Choo’s selection.

Seduced by a lower price tag for one of Britain’s best loved designers, I popped into a London store to take a look. (It was limited stores only and lowly Peterborough didn’t make the grade).

Of course I wasn’t expecting to find much left over after the initial rush but there were a few pairs. I was surprised however to see how awful they were. Not the design so much as the quality. They would have fitted in nicely into the Shoe Zone’s bargain basement range. With a £50 price tag these I thought that they could at least have used leather, not plastic.

So what does this say about one of the hottest brands out there?

I understand that high end fashion has to reach down to the masses. It’s a financial reality with rising costs at the supply end and a recession that is hitting even the richer end of the customer spectrum. However, where Top Shop got it right, Jimmy got it wrong. The Kate Moss collection starting at about £120 and going up well over £200 is pricey for Top Shop but you’ve got to give the public something to aspire to. Too affordable and it just isn’t desirable.

Your average Jimmy Choo’s are about £300 a pair, so if H&M had priced their collection at £120 for example and used some decent quality materials, I would have said that would have been a better choice.

Yes I am sure they sold well and some members of the public are chuffed with themselves but what about the core customer? What about the ones that pay £300? Do they really want to see a Tesco checkout girl sporting plastic Jimmys with the same label as them? I think not.

Luxury branding is about aspirations. As the recession continues to bite I wonder if more brands will let the prospect of good sales figures turn their heads and stamp on their core customer?

If anyone has seen the current Sonia Rykiel collection, let me know if it is any better.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Wot no toilet?

On a recent trip to London I was reminded of that annoying concept that only seems to appear in London, cafes with no toilet.

Why is that? Are they afraid that the homeless and drunks of the streets will appear on their doorstop and use their facilities? Are they afraid that customers might dwell there too long with their lip gloss? Are they afraid that you might buy only a measly packet of biscuits just to use the loo? Or do they just not give two hoots about their customers?

How many people can manage a latte without a wee? Come on girls, you know what I am saying! Why on earth do the Costa coffees and Prets of the world think it is ok not to bother giving us the usual facilities.

Not only is it bad customer service and certainly leaves me unimpressed and bursting to go, I would actively avoid cafes without toilets. So your £2.99 for a coffee has just gone somewhere else.

As opposed to it being something cafes grudgingly supply to you it could actually be made into a positive. A good clean loo is actually a selling point. I remember where the good loos are in a town. And an exciting and different loo can make you actually specifically visit a restaurant. There are toilets in a particular restaurant in Paris that are so exciting with an aquarium, and pretend peep holes, that is worth the detour.

So come, let’s have some decent toilets and be proud if people come off the street to use them. They might buy a coffee for the trouble.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Are exhibitions on the way out?

I was fortunate enough to attend the Carole Nash NEC Bike show last week. I worked in the bike industry for a couple of years so I know it quite well. The bike industry is suffering just as much cars despite less media coverage about it. New bike sales are significantly down year on year, and we are seeing major manufacturers downsizing teams in Superbikes and Moto GP or pulling out altogether

What about the punters though? The NEC show is a mecca for any bike enthusiast – a chance to see next season’s bikes unveiled and buy a load of gear. But this year no Harley Davidson stand, no Honda stand. Two of the major brands have pulled out of the show and Ducati had a tiny stand that looked like an afterthought. So is this a symptom of a declining industry? Or is it that exhibitions just aren’t what they used to be?

Both have stated that they are concentrating on customer experiences and showcasing bikes on track days or demo days rather than exhibitions. This indicates that the brands are really looking for closer customer contact and interaction than an exhibition can provide. It also suggests that the return on investment isn’t there.

This is backed up by the fact that the leading bike insurance provider Bennetts pulled out of the NEC show over 5 years ago. Not going to the show?! It was a sacrilege at the time but hasn’t done them a jot of harm thanks to the British Superbike sponsorship in its place. Arch rival insurance provider Carole Nash has taken the opposite view, as title sponsor of the whole event, they have put large sums of cash into the event with a huge expensive looking stand.

Interestingly, both Harley and Honda are attending the London Motorcycle show in February. It is highly important that all the major manufacturers are at a bike exhibition for visitor numbers to maintain. Clearly bike industry providers have alternatives to exhibitions these days so what can the NEC bike show do to improve their proposition?

Well I could come up with a really clever solution but actually in this case it comes down to a simple insight. Chatting with exhibitors, cost is a major factor. Not just the cost of the stand but the cost of staff. A lot of staff are working silly hours over 10 full days (not counting the trade day) and juggling the day job at the same time. A brand just can’t afford to employ 10 staff exclusively on the stand and what would be the use anyway since temporary staff aren’t able to talk confidently about the brand and models?

The NEC bike show is doing a lot right. As an organiser you have to work hard to attract the numbers. Competitions, VIP guests, events at the show. All of this creates a lot more interest for the visitor than just stands. However if they just condensed these activities into 5 days instead of 10 days, it would make for a more exciting and full day for the visitor and would reduce costs for exhibitors by up to a third.

So in conclusion it’s a question of being practical and getting the customers expectations to meet the trade’s scope and budget during these tough times and the NEC Bike show will be the focal point in the biking calendar for many years