The most important lesson brick-and-mortar retail companies irrespective of industry must always remember is that their establishment is at the centre of their success.
This means not only scheduling regular retail property maintenance appointments to ensure the building remains fit for purpose but also closely and honestly analysing whether the company is providing the best experience it can for customers and fitting their brand’s values.
The greatest example and greatest cautionary tale for why this matter is found in the case of Starbucks.
Initially founded in Seattle, USA in 1971, it would in 1998 enter the UK market by buying out the Seattle Coffee Company, immediately giving them 56 stores throughout the country to showcase their unique and trendy brand image based on the idea of the “third place”.
Starbucks aimed to be a comforting middle ground between home and work where commuters could pop in, and enjoy a cosy coffee shop setting wherever they were, similar to how McDonald’s will always sell the same food no matter where it is located.
It expanded rapidly, its brand hinging on its retail setting, customer experience and singular devotion to its primary product. They lost focus in all three settings and nearly lost everything as a result.
By 2003, Starbucks had already started to lose its focus, and even its founder in a 2007 leaked memo admitted that the stores had lost “the soul of the past” in favour of starting a record label, releasing a film and adding Wi-Fi to its stores.
It had gotten too big and had adapted to meeting demand quickly rather than providing an atmosphere and community experience. The early adopters quickly left for independent coffee shops with a better experience, and others would go elsewhere looking for cheaper prices.
This led to reduced sales and plummeting stock prices, with fears that the company might even go bankrupt in 2008.
However, it survived via significant downsizing, leaving unprofitable markets such as Australia, a commitment to retraining staff and a focus once again on the local community with more locally designed stores.
This highlights just how important the retail experience is, and at the core of this is the store itself and how well it is maintained.