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5 Rules of Winning a Retail Launch

Still to be named, it’s supported by the same investment vehicle behind the recent launch of budget fashion retailer, PEP&CO, which completed its initial 50 store launch programme in mid-September and whose range will feature in the new discount chain.

The arrival of this latest chain on the high street – it hopes to open 10 stores in the first half of 2016 – will create yet more competition in what is already a fiercely contested market that includes big players such as Poundland, and provides a further signal that discount retailing in the UK is still very much on the up and up.

In another recent blog post , we looked at how discounters are beginning to place a greater emphasis on investing in POS and enhancing the shopping experience, as they seek to reinforce the quality message. But whilst the likes of Aldi and Lidl are now well-established and turning their attention to pushing for the middle ground in order to grow sales and attract new, more affluent shoppers, these fledging discount brands are starting at the bottom – seeking to build critical mass, with an aggressive store rollout programme.

In many ways they are unique, doing something that no other company has attempted to do in recent years – launch two new retail brands, at scale, in such a tight timeframe. But where they are not alone is in terms of the obstacles they will face to implement the brand successfully within the store environment.

The complexities of trying to achieve so much, so quickly in-store is a common one to FMCG marketers – frequently faced with the challenge of launching a new brand and product variant in-store, or delivering campaigns into hundreds of stores, almost simultaneously. Supporting retail activity for existing brands or new launches is an expensive and difficult task and is typically associated with leaps of faith, risk and, often, failure.

But PEP&CO completed its rollout of 50 new stores in 50 days, whilst Boots successfully launched its 2014 Christmas campaign into 312 stores in just 5 nights. What went right? Here are five things marketers can learn from large-scale implementations as they try to plan their in-store success stories.

Think big and act small

When everybody has multiple projects and lots of things on their plate, it’s often difficult to unlock the big idea. Appointing an external project management team to oversee all aspects of in-store implementation provides a dedicated resource that is rarely burdened with internal distractions. Committed 100% to fulfilling in-store launch objectives, their specialist knowledge can help to bring a clear focus and simplify things – offering an objective, critical assessment of the small things that could, ultimately, make a big difference to the final outcome. As the saying goes: retail is detail.

Avoid doing more of the same

Every marketer has been guilty of doing it from time to time – dusting off a previous implementation plan, changing only minimal details, and repeating past behaviours. With the constant pressure for brands to perform in-store and a relentless promotional calendar it’s little wonder. But why settle for ‘good’, when you could achieve ‘great’? Just because something was deemed to have ‘worked’ last time, could it be the case that with a few well-considered tweaks, your next retail implementation may actually work even better? Time after time, installation projects are guilty of suffering because of habitual “it’s what we’ve always done” behaviours. So, don’t discount the importance of looking at every installation with fresh eyes – specifically those important and unsatisfied needs that you may previously have been told ‘can’t be done’. Brand objectives, the in-store environment, your needs, and the knowledge and skills of retail specialists are constantly evolving. Make sure your plans are always the best that they could be at any given moment in time.

Communication is key

Without buy-in from key project stakeholders to successfully land retail activations, the chances are that shoppers will be buying little. As the influence of social media and reliance on email grows, it’s tempting to view fundamentals like picking up the phone to someone as a relic of a past age. But marketers that dismiss the importance of maintaining regular human contact with retailers and localised store teams in the run up to brand assets arriving into stores do so at their own risk. Being in sync with the daily challenges of store managers and speaking to them about the upcoming in-store plans is a timeless principle. At CJ Retail Solutions we blend traditional old-school approaches with state-of-the-art technology –ensuring stakeholders are engaged, right up to the moment an installation hits stores, and marketers have full visibility over execution compliance through real-time reporting.

Plan for failure

It may be in direct conflict with what many suppliers would like to have you believe, but things do go wrong. Most will approach retail implementations with the deliberate approach of ‘it will work’. If it does: great. But that’s rarely the reality, and an all-or-nothing approach is, quite frankly, foolhardy. Having a realist approach that helps you to anticipate and plan for setbacks is vital. Do so and it will ensure teams can adjust quickly and have the support necessary to overcome obstacles and keep projects on track, even when the going gets tough.

Partners must be focused and determined

Whoever you choose to support your retail implementation plans must be committed, supportive, and hungry to deliver. It can’t be one or the other. In order for a new store or brand to be a success, it needs people’s full support. Installation is no different. Too often partners say that their highly experienced and knowledgeable senior members will be dedicated to a project, but when it comes to allocating resources many substitute senior heads in favour of more junior (but often bigger financial) figures. At CJ Retail Solutions we do the opposite. To us, it’s doing it rather than saying it that really matters. Senior leaders within the business, with a strong in-store pedigree, promise to invest big, stay committed throughout, and never discount just how important it is for brands to plan well and launch strongly – and that’s exactly what they do.