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A Retail Question

Last week I was reading a book called ‘A Perfect Mess‘ by Abrahamson and Freedman. The book talks about the advantages of having some mess in life and says the benefits of order and cleanliness have been over dramatised. Interesting theory and I enjoyed some bits of it though I don’t subscribe to the theory. Not till I can find that note which is in this mess on my table!!

In the book the authors talk about this bookshop called New England Mobile Book Fair. Click here for pics of the store. Yes it is not the order of Borders (;-)). It has tons of books. Al fine. The bit that amazed me was that the books were ordered by publisher!! Not by author or category as normal. So if you want a book and don’t know the publisher, you log on to their catalogues in the store, find the publisher and off you go. That totally took me by surprise. I mean do you go into a store looking for books by a publisher? Or an author? Or reference under a subject?

Even more astounding is the fact that the store does more business than the Barnes and Nobles and Borders in its neighbourhood, combined.

So you can’t knock success. But it led me to wonder about how retailers stock their products.

I have often been to buy clothes and been most frustrated when the department store stocks its clothes by label. Trying to find a shirt, for example, would involve walking across many mini stores making comparisons practically impossible. I wonder, if it is only me, or is it a common phenomenon.

I understand that brands pay for the space and then put up their own store in store. This works well for the brand and the store in question. But as a customer would you prefer to have the products aligned by how you buy?

The whole point of having branded stores is that it is targeted at those who have already decided on their brand and are looking for something within that portfolio. But going into a department store suggests that one is shopping within the category and not reached at brand choice yet. But the way the products are stocked creates conflict with the buying process.

Am interested to know if Retailer evidence/research supports brand wise stocking.

I am prepared to be surprised, just like I was with the success story that is the New England Mobile Book Fair!!

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  1. Asif Ansari
    February 1, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Slight disagreement with your observations, Harish. When you walk into a department store to buy clothes/shoes, etc, you’re operating within a brand consideration set which could be pretty narrow depending on budget/lifestyle, etc (unless you’re completely brand agnostic). Let me illustrate. You might want to buy a T-shirt that’s from Hugo Boss, Armani or Gucci. So you won’t trundle through the entire store looking at the less expensive or less ‘trendier’ brands; you will just walk over to these sections and see if they have anything you want. Same thing for jeans, shoes and underwear.

    The success of the book fair where they stack books according to publishers is mystifying.

  2. jayanth
    February 1, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Hi Harish your topic is an intresting one. Just to quote another example Apple stores.(which contradicts the theory!!)
    It has the highest turnover per square feet. All their stores are designed so neat. It would be a breeze to walk through their stores. Is it successful because of this factor alone.?? I do not think so. its because of the products ,communication,buzz,locations etc.
    Also the main resaon Apple is succesfull because it plugged the need in the market.
    Which was the lack of availablaity of their products in the retail segment.
    This offers a platform for all the fanboys to visit and explore.
    I think as the value of the product increases we tend to go the specialty stores or so called exclusive brand stores. Because of the range it offers for a particular brand.
    As you rightly mentioned.

    Just to stray from the topic further..will Microsoft retail succeed?? God knows.
    Because all the mom and pop stores and the whole world stocks their product.

    But if I have decided to buy a tooth paste or jeans . Though I would have decided
    On the brand. Still I would like to explore the offers and choices I have.

    Without this reason I would not walk into department store.Since everything Is categorised ( There are stores which have clear categories)

    About your comment about products not being stocked according to the customers behavior . some stores don’t do it and some stores do it.
    When I was talking to P&G guy he was saying as per their protocol they should stock brushes first and then the tooth paste. This is as per their research .which is stocked as per customers buying patterns. With these insights they have got some good results.
    Since the scope of the topic is broad , I don’t think we can generalise.
    But one thing is for sure all people who who walk into department stores might
    Have decided on the brands but would try choices. Hence brands are kept side by side. The core idea is choice and risk. If they stock products by needs .Then it boils down to one brand , Which is too much of a risk. So he allocates space to different brands who gives hime the best deals and which performs best.

    The success of the book fair store is puzzling. !!!May be the local audience from the neighbourhood have a very clear idea about the publishers catalogues . Hence over a period of time they go by the publishers than the authors.

    May be am wrong…anyway this topic was an intresting food for my thought.
    Which reaffirms to me there are no formulas for anything. Just guidelines relevant during a time frame!!

  3. February 10, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    loved your post!

  1. January 2, 2011 at 12:28 pm

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