Building a Better Brand

Better Brand – Better Offer – Better Experience!

Graham Richardson– Director of Retail and Operations Ashgate Hospicecare shares his experience of building successful young fashion brands and how this has shaped his work in the third sector.

How do we deliver the important elements of a Retail Journey?

I recently visited our stores with the retail team; it presented a challenge on how we evaluate our shops. On the visits into our stores how did we know whether we are getting the Customer Experience Right? That’s when we agreed simple challenge – did we think our customers understood the brand message, did they see a great offer (the wow factor)?  Was the shopping experiences a good one?

We, the consumers have all been there! Great brand but poor service,  great service but poor offer and so on. In retail, we have many challenges so surely delivering the basics should be simple.

We constantly try to improve and deliver: A Better Brand – Better Offer -Better Experience -under pinned by value and convenience. It’s not rocket science…or is it?”

I was born into retail at an early age delivering bread and milk from the age of seven. My first real job was working for Burton’s the Tailor, (a huge brand at the time) learning the basics of retail practices, housekeeping, ticketing  garments and much more. I was not allowed to get near a customer. As a junior salesperson I had to observe service levels from a distance before I was allowed to engage with customers, then it was only on busy days. Observing experienced sales managers was amazing; they instantly had good rapport and could estimate the jacket size of a customer as they walked through the door. This was bespoke service at its finest; this gave me an invaluable insight into the retail journey and an edge to help me achieve my goals.

When I moved into young fashion (Topshop & Topman) it was an exciting journey. I watched a brand grow and understood the philosophy behind the process. I loved the people the fashion and the music. The brand conferences were amazing with celebrities, fashion show’s and music, it was exciting!

How does an already successful brand make a quantum leap? This was a question raised at a brand conference during my time at Topshop & Topman.

The answer, you invest in people, creativity, passion and hard work. Months after the conference a new creative visual team was born and the quantum leap followed.

When I started working in the third sector it was difficult to comprehend the task in hand as we had no plan and no technology! The retail shops were under nourished therefore the customer journey was limited. I started to question the retail offer and went back to basics. This helped the retail teams and started to give them confidence, the results that followed have been amazing and in my eight year we are still growing profits significantly.

In our retail team we are constantly trying to ‘up our game’ the results we have achieved are significant to Ashgate Hospicecare.  We aim to combine creativity with business solutions as our contribution to Ashgate Hopsicecare is crucial to service provision and without it services would be affected.

We don’t aspire to look like a traditional charity shop and we never stand still. We are always looking for ways to stand out from the many charity and high street retailers. We are constantly looking for new ideas and inspirations. We scour the UK marketplace and use the internet to look globally and find new things all the time making sure the solid retail basics are in place.

The digital journey will be one of our biggest challenges and opportunities.  Trying to keep in touch with the commercial marketplace is tough as it’s moving so fast. This year we are starting digital trials which will include touch screen technology, personalisation of our data and various online developments.

The hospice retail world is an interesting one, made up of lots of great local hospice charities, at last count  we had well over 2000 shops. That’s a big deal and a big opportunity!

I am really lucky, I love my job and I can’t wait for the Monday morning sales meeting! We have a great team at Ashgate Hospicecare Retail  and we are on a journey like many organisations. We are not the best, but we aspire to be!  Our challenge is always to be a better brand, to deliver a better offer and to try to provide a better experience.

 This blog was written by Graham Richardson– Director of Retail and Operations Ashgate Hospicecare