Thursday, 22 November 2012

Decjuba – Rebirth of a brand

In a time in which many are claiming spending is down and business is verging on impossible, one entrepreneur is bucking the trend, bringing the Decjuba brand back from certain extinction.
When I arrived at the Decjuba offices in Collingwood I was immediately impressed.  Rather than a standard head office removed from the stores, it emulated a retail store. The staff moved with a purpose yet none to busy to greet me as they passed. Behind the stylish and well-designed reception was a clearly visible rack, almost to the ceiling, with the latest range forming the centre piece of the open plan offices.

As I waited with anticipation to meet the woman I had heard so much about, I was greeted by the familiar clanging sound of running rails being carried from the offices through the reception.  Yup this is a retailer!
Tania Austin, CEO, greeted me at reception and you’d have been forgiven for thinking you’d just walked into  a shoot for Vogue or Harpers. A stylish woman dressed, not just immaculately but (to my surprise) head to toe in her own Decjuba designs.

Tania Austin was half of the superpower behind the Cotton on Group which includes Cotton On, Cotton On Kids, Cotton On body, Rubi shoes and Typo. Together with her then-husband, Tania and Nigel grew a humble yet creative retail concept into a retail giant in multiple countries.
While speaking to Tania I expected some amazing pearls of wisdom as to how they grew a small business into a global force and the very unassuming Tania, whilst full of great advice, always brought it back to one thing:  back to basics.

There are thousands of reasons Tania and Nigel made a success of the Cotton on Brands but Tania stressed that the ability to keep your eyes wide open and always see all areas of the business coupled with listening to your people was a huge factor in their success. She also said that as the business grew it was critical not to let the numbers scare her; they took calculated risks and didn’t always play it safe.
After separating from Nigel, Tania made the tough decision to leave the business also and immediately knew she needed to find a new challenge as she had never not worked.  Having worked in the value-for-money space, Tania wanted to try her hand in a different style of retail where she could have more flexibility to play with design and fabrics and at the same time create an image. Tania identified the need for a brand that worked for the youth market and yet showed a maturing woman she didn’t need to stop being fashionable. In short she wanted to create a brand that made women feel great.

When Tania began considering her options she was approached to look at the Decjuba brand. Although the brand was a little lost in the market, Tania knew immediately this was the next step for her. Tania loved the platform and thought it was something she could build on and besides, she loved the name.

Decjuba was founded in 2003 by Kookai owner Rob Cromb, who sold the brand a short while later to focus on his core brand. At that point Decjuba began to face an identity crisis. Trying to be many different things the brand dabbled in men’s and women’s designs as well as accessories, leaving consumers confused as to what it was. By 2008  just as many thought the brand was no longer in existence, Tania stepped in.
Taking over six Australian and two New Zealand stores Tania made it a point to not make radical changes, preferring to assess and understand the brand. Working closely with the people in the company paid off as and most of the original team are still in place and have been an integral part of the growth.

Tania oversees all elements of design personally and is focused on keeping it simple, but just how does one go about reinventing an entire brand? The first answer from Tania was to have a considered approach which is not always tangible.
“Sometimes you just have to feel it” Austin says - a talent no doubt gained while completing her psychology degree.

Once you have developed a brand strategy you have to keep everything on brand, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
“Versatility was the other thing Austin targeted but a good fit is essential and will effectively become the cornerstone for your brand.  Customers want to be able to wear an outfit to the office and then throw a jacket on and head out to dinner; we have a core range of basics that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Even when I go to pick up the kids I can dress down accordingly,” Tania says, although your average soccer mom she isn’t.

As savvy with her commercial skills as she is, Tania knew the key to pulling all of her ideas into a winning brand was to leverage her fashion sense and to get margin on her side. The first step was to change the sourcing model from using agents in Hong Kong to becoming vertical retailer and sourcing direct from China. This not only improved margin it also gave a greater handle on product quality and speed to market a combination which is critical in today’s retail market.
The most remarkable thing about Tania is that she doesn’t seem to have a particular strength she focuses on. Rather she owns all areas of the business. She is as comfortable talking about her finances as she is her design. If there was one area that seemed to light she up it was her people. Tania says she believes people want to do the right thing and if you give them direction and freedom they will always surprise you. Speaking first hand with some of her people Tania walks the walk with her team and they have enormous respect for her. Each week all department heads meet on location at a store and review all areas of the business; this assures complete buy in to the bigger picture and departments work together for the greater good. 

Decjuba has a clear brand strategy and doesn’t do anything for the sake of it. You will find them on Facebook with over 12,000 followers and on Pinterest where you will be delighted with the amazing trends. All on brand, it’s clear that it’s a well thought out strategy.
So what’s next for this brand? The sky is the limit now; and with 23 stores and around seven  more opening next year, I am convinced Decjuba will soon be considered a leader in Australian fashion. Tania’s respect for what she calls her savvy customer will ensure the quality is maintained whilst the value-for-money and versatile ranges continue to delight. The online store will continue to grow and compliment the bricks and mortar sites.

The brand will foster its owner’s mantra of bravery and courage and will continue to push the boundaries.
Tania says she believes in acting with certainty and will be action focused to grow her brand.

“I don’t believe in failure,” says Tania.
Trust me: this is one lady that will not fail 

-John Caldwell

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Teleporting to Retail in 2020

The last 10 years we have seen drastic changes to the retail environment and no doubt the next 10 will be just as ground breaking with the many exciting, emerging technology trends and advancements.

It is clear to see consumer trends have changed in recent years. Research shows that two thirds of shoppers changed their shopping behaviour during recent years. Spending started to slow down as people who used to make shopping lists now buy something because they have an email coupon or because a retailer has fast checkout lines. Scoopon in Australia and Grabone in NZ are two companies which have seen great success in online sales.

In the new multichannel reality the boundaries between virtual and physical space are becoming blurred and retailers and being forced to question the function of stores. By 2020 non-store retail is expected to represent around 12% of the overall retail space with one third of retail growth coming from online sales.

Disappearing checkouts, shrinking stores and hovering holograms with product information will be a thing of the future. Consumer electronic devices have evolved from occasional use devise to highly embedded tools in our everyday lives. According to the 2011 Nielsen report approx. 46% of all mobile users own a smart phone.

Pop up nation

Moving closer to 2020 we are likely to see more and more “pop-up shops”.  A generation ago, supermarkets “popped” into fuller service environments with flower shops, coffee shops and wine sellers. Department stores added experiential areas and services, make-up counters began to offer more makeovers and demonstrations.  This type of retail occupies a location for a short time and is promotional and creates hype, coolness factor and a sense of urgency or intrigue.

After the Christchurch earth quakes of 2010 & 2011 the city has created a “popup city” as they wait to rebuild the city, with a hub of restaurants, cafes, bars and retail popping up all over the show. Over in the UK BoxPark Shoreditch is a retail innovation. The worlds first pop up mall, based in the heart of east London. No doubt we will see more and more of these types of stores in the next five to eight years.

Drive though supermarkets

In August this year Woolworths launched Australia’s first drive through supermarket at Warringah Mall in Sydney, allowing customers to collect their shopping without having to get out of their car.  The idea was pioneered by French food retailer Auchan in 2006. Tesco and Waitrose are also testing the model in England.

Virtual supermarkets

In South Korea, Tesco created a virtual store in the subway where commuters can order their groceries from a virtual wall. As consumers will shop more often retailers need to capitalize on impulse needs with people picking up goods on a daily basis instead of weekly stock ups.

Online pick ups

Online retailers will partner up with non competitive retailers for places where customers can pick up their merchandise. Amazon have already started doing this when a customer purchases an item on Amazon, they can opt to have the item delivered to a locker where upon delivery they'll receive a email with a code that opens the locker.

Innovation in fashion

Burberry hosted a holographic fashion show in Beijing last year. Dozens of models walked across the catwalk where real-time video and generative computer graphics interacted with the models’ movements and clothes, resulting in a hybrid spectacle where the physical and the virtual could hardly be distinguished. 

Where to from here?

Speed and convenience are two of the underlying factors affecting our retail environment and going forward innovation and social media (omni\-channel) retailing will be the major players in the retail environment. The movers and shakers of the retail market are shown in the Market Evolution Model below. It categorises each country according to their Retail Development Stage. Going ahead you can see that the US is yet to reach the post modern stage that Germany and the UK are at. India is miles behind everyone else, however, after allowing 100% FDI in the retail market this year we are likely to see them move into the exploration stage soon.

One of the growing challenges will be to engage consumers so that they don’t feel like they are a victim of mass marketing. While innovation is great, service and bricks and mortar will ultimately be the differentiation factor for retailers.