RETAIL CASE STUDY: @WorkDesign

@WorkDesign is a retail store for the design-savvy home-based worker.  Offering everything from paper goods, furnishings, storage and shelving – to computer bags and lighting, Julia seeks to enhance personal productivity with the most functional and aesthetic products from her store, @WorkDesign. Let me tell you, Julia Archer has fantastic taste and vision.

Bringing to the table 25 years of design management, brand strategy and retail design experience, Julia opened @WorkDesign.  All those years of corporate experience enabled her to put together a solid and impressive business plan and obtained fantastic outside help to review it.  The branding and design of the store were executed flawlessly – as was proven by great amount of unsolicited press that she received from reputable and highly respected sources.

Julia contacted me because she had become increasingly frustrated with the results she had been getting from the store.  All that publicity had not generated sales and she realized that she was “putting out so much energy but getting little back.”  She was “losing confidence in [her] buying, along with everything else.”  She had “reached a point where [she] didn’t know what was working or not working or what to expect.”

This happens all the time.  Julia had spent enormous time and energy preparing to open her store.  She knew what it took to be successful in a corporate environment and knew it would be different in the retail world and wanted to be ready.   However she had missed four steps that are essential for independent specialty store success.  These steps aren’t easily discovered in mainstream resources as it has taken me over 25 years to determine them.

And here they are…

1.  Identify your ideal customer in detail.
2. Create a marketing and advertising calendar that addresses your ideal customer and serves to create urgency and focus to drive sales.
3. Use an inventory management process that identifies hidden opportunities and profit suckers.
4. Put together a team to help and support you.

The first item on our agenda was to identify the ideal customer. Their demographics were thoroughly discussed. Then we keyed in on what is important to these ideal clients and what keeps them up at night as it relates to what @WorkDesign can offer them. We determined five compelling and specific questions that they need the answers to. We even gave actual names to our ideal customers!

Next came branding. The branding work that Julia had done was beautiful, but she needed to get the word out!  We used the ideal customers to determine what information and events would appeal to them.  We developed a fabulous content calendar and outlined her comprehensive marketing and advertising calendar.  We made sure that everything was included from leveraging local events and the National @WorkDesign Week to social media and “stay in touch” marketing pieces.

Julia made the smart decision to hire an expert in the design industry. Together we developed a six month plan to introduce designers to @WorkDesign and to solidify our position as a resource for them.  The most important outcome of my work here was to provide her with structure and benchmarks of what was appropriate to generate results.

“Many of the marketing components that we put into play were initiatives that I had done or thought about doing but didn’t know how to put in context of an overarching plan for creating momentum.” -Julia Archer

Julia can continue to use this marketing system we created to move forward on her own. She is now in the driver’s seat and is working with her customers more effectively and more consistently than ever before.

The third step was to analyze the inventory to find the hidden cash and overlooked profit potential. We broke down the store’s inventory and sales history into smaller classes in order to really dig into it.  Our initial discovery was that she was over inventoried in relation to her sales.  Julia had done a great job with the mix of inventory – she has a fantastic eye for design, but the mistake she had made was ordering too many of each item.  We immediately took action to create more cash and discovered a class of merchandise that had been performing better than she was aware of.  I love when that happens!  So we came up with a plan to increase the turn and profit in that class through the next season and beyond.   

Finally, we worked to pull together a team to support Julia in reaching her goals.  We began by identifying the specific areas in which Julia needed additional help.   She hired an intern to help her set up and maintain her social media campaigns and coordinate her web presence.  We knew that she needed some sales help and found a wonderful woman to assist.  The bonus is that Julia’s new part time employee is also a design expert who can help her develop that particular area of her business.  Obviously, she also has me to rely on as a trusted resource and expert.  Before, Julia was doing everything by herself and now she has three people working with her to complement her strengths and help her keep moving in the right direction.  With this additional support, Julia has also initiated a local retailer alliance to create marketing initiatives with nine stores that all focus on the home.  It will be wonderfu l to see the impact on the stores and homes in the area as a result of her work.

On a final note, her sales for the last 4 months are up 61% over last year with less inventory.  She wants to see an even greater increase, and she will as long as she continues to follow through and build on the solid foundation that we put into place.

“I feel that I have a better sense of how to apply my ideas and where I need to focus my efforts moving forward. It feels good to have made an impact.” -Julia Archer

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