Last Wednesday, CMG Board Member John Hoerner – former Debenhams CEO – launched his new book: How to Sell: Recipes for Retail.

The launch celebration was preceded by a Q&A with John organised by CMG. Many clients, colleagues and former colleagues joined us at the recently renovated Fashion Retail Academy between 16:00 and 17:15.

We opened with a discussion on the way that the internet will impact brick and mortar retailing.

John thinks that retailers have to be able to sell online – through many new models – and if they can’t they will lose in the long run.

He supported this with many examples of the wide range and convenience that the internet offers customers today (which stores can’t match).

He said that, in the future, shops will only be required when they offer customers something distinct, that they can’t get through internet shopping (like touching a fabric or a fun experience).

Next, we talked about  the myth of customer loyalty

John said that ‘we are loyal to our relatives and will stick with them through thick and then, but we aren’t loyal to a retailer or a brand.  As soon as the brand doesn’t have what we want or need (wrong quality or price), we will switch.  He said that we can establish a habit of shopping with a retailer, but the retailer needs to continually work at retaining our custom.

We then took questions from the group and touched on many points including:

A) Is it a good idea to enter the American market and how do we choose where to expand to internationally?  

1.    America has too much retailing space and extremely low margins, making it one of the most difficult markets to enter.  John would suggest looking elsewhere first.

2.     When selecting a market, look for one that needs the thing that you have to offer.  Do deep research to ensure that it’s something customers there will want.

B) Advice for UK retailers looking to adapt to challenges from Aldi and Lidl

Speaking metaphorically, John compared the so-called ‘German Discounters’ to the Americans during the War of Independence. He compared the tactics of Aldi and Lidl to the strategies of guerrilla warfare, and said that the reason these tactics are successful is because the opponent does not adapt to the new rules of the game.  The discounters are offering high quality products that attract affluent customers and also offering the cheapest prices.  They change tact frequently and listen.

After the Q&A, the guests attended the book launch party held at the Groucho Club.

Find John’s book on Amazon here.

Find John’s website here.

Thank you to The Retail Practice.