Women retailers get it right, says Craig Phillipson


What makes one retailer so successful at a time when very many others are struggling?  That was the question put to international retail expert, Craig Phillipson, during his recent interview on West Midlands radio station, BBC WM.

The interview, which took place on Monday 10 August, highlighted the huge profits achieved by Cath Kidston, who designs and sells homeware with a retro feel.  Her cheerful flower and polka dot designs helped the company secure profits of £4.6m in the year to March 09, a £1.7m increase on the previous year.

It's an amazing success story and one which could easily be attributable to recession-hit consumers' nostalgic yearnings.  But Craig Phillipson isn't convinced.

"Personally, I'm not sure it's about nostalgia," he said, "Cath Kidston has been around for a few years, slowly building a very good brand.  She's managed to plug a gap in middle England taste and fashion that's always existed.  Likewise Jane Churchill and Emma Bridgewater.  Both have responded successfully to this market." 

Craig is owner and managing director of research-based retail consultancy, Shopworks.  He has more than 20 years retail experience and works with retailers and manufacturers across the world. 

He believes that women retailers are proving successful because they think more deeply about what their customers want.

"Too often, retailers try to second-guess their customer requirements and forget about the overall shopping experience.  Cath Kidston has done two things: she's identified what her customers want and then made it an enjoyable experience to go shopping in her stores.  And she's reaping the rewards."

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