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Importance of gaining global appeal

Having global appeal has become increasingly important, as many companies look to overseas expansion as the next arena for growth.

How one can succeed globally, as well as examples of international retailers that have done well, was the subject of "Innovations in Merchandising — A Global Perspective" here at IMRA.

Jack Shewmaker, a former Wal-Mart executive and now an executive consultant with J-Com, Inc., told the IMRA audience that retailers that have failed usually responded to short-term goals instead of looking to long-term opportunities. Successful retailers, however, learn from the competition, identify key technology, budget time and money for research, fast-track talented employees, keep stores clean, explore Internet applications and respond to customer demand. "Stores need to look fresh, modern and exciting," he said, and remodels should occur within five years instead of 10.

For retailers looking globally, Shewmaker believes that international conglomerates will grow larger, even though more consolidation is also in store. Also, supercenters and category killers will increase, as will conveniences for the customer, such as the use of a universal card, drive-through services and value packaging and branding. Retail formats with high-gross-margin management, however, will deteriorate.

U.K. retailer Boots the Chemists has been in business for more than 100 years, yet has renovated itself to retain appeal with its customers. "We need to maintain trust in that brand while keeping up with changing customer attitudes," said Caitlin Bailey, skincare product manager. "Variation is the key to keeping the customer interested. A great retail environment can drive loyalty."

Renovations have included lowering the shelf heights, which customers said were too high, as well as adding curved shelving, which "invites browsing," she said. The stores also have makeup bars, which become wine bars at night, to entice customers.

"You can never do too much signage," she added, as long as it is kept tasteful and not overbearing. In addition, Boots has grown its private-label brands, as well as exclusive "Hero" brands with suppliers.

Irish food retailer Superquinn looks to retain customers in what is a competitive industry. Eamonn Quinn, deputy chairman, said the retailer believes in the Boomerang Principle, which recognizes the lifetime opportunity with customers and striving to keep them returning. "We work on keeping the existing customer instead of spending money on getting new ones," he said. Initiatives include a "play bus" that provides childcare for shoppers and the sounding of a bell in the bakery when fresh goods come out of the oven. It also holds weekly customer panels.

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