How to Succeed at Retail: Winning Case Studies and Strategies for Retailers and Brands

Karen P. Gonçalves (Ann Taylor Stores, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




Gonçalves, K.P. (2008), "How to Succeed at Retail: Winning Case Studies and Strategies for Retailers and Brands", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 192-193.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

If you are looking for a book filled with ideas for how to succeed as a retail organization or as a marketer of branded products sold to large, mass market retailers, this is the book for you. How to Succeed at Retail reads like something a motivational speaker might write, but underneath the superlatives, simplification, and cheeriness, there are some excellent ideas.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 (nine short chapters) focuses on the concepts, attitudes, knowledge, and approaches needed to be successful in today's highly competitive retail environment. Part 2 is one very long chapter that includes 25 examples of companies the authors have selected for their excellence along four dimensions that lead to retail success, along with a brief description of their rating system. Part 3 is two short chapters describing the steps the authors recommend taking to achieve retail success, and explaining why all businesses need to follow these steps.

Each chapter in Part 1 begins with “RE” (referring to “REtail”) and uses new terms to share a range of basic marketing concepts. For example, Chapter 1 is “REsolving the big squeeze” and Chapter 2 is “REassessing the shopper”. In essence, these chapters are an abbreviated version of the concepts provided in a marketing strategy textbook. For example, in Chapter 1, the authors address the critical issue of channel relationships and power. However, instead of structuring the chapter around Michael Porter's model of the structural analysis of industries, they simply discuss how and why channel power has shifted over the past decade or so, and they use examples from well‐known companies to illustrate their points.

In Chapter 5, instead of reviewing the diffusion of innovations and the factors affecting adoption rates, the authors present five principles by a company called “Opinion Bengal” (p. 57).

Readers with an academic background are likely to be taken aback by the way some classic marketing and strategic principles are presented, but business/marketing professionals are likely to appreciate the everyday language, lists, charts and other accessible ways the authors use to share complex ideas.

Throughout Part 1, the authors coin new words and phrases. For example, they use “Co‐opetition” (chapter 1) to describe the business practice of suppliers and customers working together to understand customer needs and then respond with appropriate offerings. Many forms of joint development efforts have existed at both business‐to‐business and consumer marketing levels for many years, but the authors present this as something new and different. Using a single, easy‐to‐remember word brings it alive to readers not already familiar with the practice.

In chapter 2, Lincoln and Thomassen review key trends affecting retailers using the phrase “REassessing shoppers”. In chapter 3, they refer to “REconnecting to the shopper” when discussing market research, market intelligence, and other ways to become knowledgeable about one's target market.

It is a bit odd to see all the “RE's” throughout the book, but I suspect that using these single words to describe complex ideas and practices will help readers understand and relate to them, and to become excited about incorporating them into their own businesses – and isn't that the point of most business books?

Lincoln and Thomassen also share new ideas and activities such as PRISM (Chapter 4, pp. 51‐3). As the authors explain, PRISM stands for “Pioneering Research for an In‐Store Metric,” and it is an attempt to measure an important part of the consumer decision process – in‐store consumer reach at the category level. They also discuss a broad array of new media and emerging technologies, and the ways in which they are changing the way business takes place, and what we expect from businesses.

I especially liked the last chapter in Part 1 (chapter 9, “RE‐storing your ethics”) because it addresses business ethics. The approach is practical, and the text is timely. Most of this short chapter (five pages) focuses on environmentally sound business practices and provides examples of companies taking ambitious steps to improve their “green” credentials. It is refreshing because the authors focus on sound business reasons to “go green” and to practice strong business ethics.

Part 2 is very engaging reading, and includes a small section on how the authors evaluated companies (pp. 100‐1). The whole point of this section is to share brief case studies of 25 companies that have become very successful by using the ideas introduced in Part 1. Many of the case study companies are in the food business, but there are ample examples from other industries. Many of the strategies employed by these successful firms are transferrable across industries, so readers are likely to get a range of good ideas that are applicable to their own companies.

Some of the Part 2 companies are obvious choices – Zara, H & M, Proctor & Gamble, and Starbucks. Others are not as well known, but they are very successful in their target markets – Karmaloop, Peroni and Innocent. It was fun to read about companies I was not familiar with, and refreshing to read about excellent companies. It was fascinating to read how these firms have become successful and to try to think of how their success might apply to firms in other industries. It is a bit like a good puzzle – many unique pieces that seem mysterious at first but that ultimately fit together. In this case, they form a solid foundation on which to “RE‐create” readers' businesses. It would be a shame to spoil a good read by saying much more about this chapter.

Part 3 purports to provide the details readers need to put Lincoln and Thomassen's ideas into practice. Chapter 11 is organized logically, and there are charts and graphs throughout to illustrate each step. I tried to apply the steps to businesses I have run in the past and found it a bit difficult to make a full transition from the ideas to practical applications of those ideas. However, the Preface notes that readers can go to a web site that includes:

… more strategies, cases, tools and methodologies to help you succeed at retail even more. Additionally, you can download the operational methodologies in detailed PowerPoint charts, including all brainstorm exercises and instructions for execution. This methodology will be updated on a regular basis to keep you thinking! (p. xii).

I could not get to the web site, probably because the copy I reviewed was an uncorrected proof, so perhaps the name was not spelled correctly or they are still working on the site. If the web site meets the expectations created in the book, many readers should find this to be not only a fun and informative read, but a good set of business tools and principles they can apply to their own businesses.

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