Despite recent press reporting on numerous Canadian retail store closures and bankruptcies, some retailers are experiencing considerable success. Exceptional customer service is key, as is an integrated cross-channel customer digital and off-line strategy. Retail expert Antony Karabus, CEO of HRC Advisory, a leading retail consulting firm, recently discussed the topic on BNN in the video above.
Mr. Karabus discussed the importance of having a 'tight' relationship with customers, while understanding exactly how each customer wishes to interact with the retailer. Exceptional customer service, well-located stores, strong product knowledge, and ease of transaction are key. Mr. Karabus specifically mentioned Lululemon, The Running Room, Canadian Tire, and Harry Rosen as standing out.
Mr. Karabus discussed Canadian Tire, which he says is probably Canada's most iconic retailer. Canadian Tire stores are well-located and the brand has worked with the Olympics and Skate Canada, for example, to build brand awareness and create a "key bond" with Canadians. Canadian Tire's convenience, breadth of product, and top-of-mind awareness has contributed to its exceptional sales growth, he said.
Mr. Karabus discussed upscale menswear retailer Harry Rosen, and what makes it successful. Mr. Karabus said that trust is key for the male luxury consumer, and Harry Rosen has created it through often multi-decade relationships, as well as offering a lifetime maintenance guarantee on its products.
Mr. Karabus went on to discuss social media and online retail, and how it's critical for retailers to communicate in the way that customers want, and to be where their customers are. Canadian consumers are increasingly online and millennials, especially, are on social media. Mr. Karabus said that a retailer catering to tweens millennials need to be "ferociously" on social media such as Instagram, for example, to engage with consumers who are already there.
Speaking to the topic of smaller retailers, Mr. Karabus indicated that he feels strongly that they can effectively compete with behemoths such as Walmart and Amazon.ca with personalized communications regarding merchandise from brands that the boutique owner knows the specific customer prefers. He said that although smaller retailers may not be able to compete with Walmart on price, for example, boutiques would be well served to let customers know when a new product will arrive, tailoring the message to the customer's preferences. 'One-to-one' relationship building can differentiate smaller retailers from Walmart, for example, which is focused on mass appeal not one-on-one service.
About our Expert:
Antony Karabus is CEO of HRC Advisory, a leading retail advisory firm. He has advised retailers on strategic and financial performance issues for over 25 years and has assisted numerous North American retailers to create significant shareholder value during this time. Mr. Karabus has advised numerous national retail chains in key sectors, including department store, specialty apparel and hard lines, big box, and grocery. He can be reached at email@example.com.