There are a number of basic principles in retailing that evolved from the very beginnings of trade, I have something I do not need myself that someone else will want.
Long ago it might have been excess crop or an inherited tool. It was probably bartered for another item the originator thought worthy and then this evolved into money instead. The principle is still there, rule number one, you must have something someone else will value and want to buy. Obvious.
The fashion traders spend hours understanding what this is and how they can best present it to their customers, the food retailers similarly create vast amounts of information on customer trends, all trying to gauge what the customer is really looking for.
Yet on visits this last week I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of ranging from retailers that really should know better. Nothing here is rocket science yet the absence of good range merely suggests poor connection with the target audience (customers might be too strong a word here), and potentially poor retail operations that challenges the veracity of new change activity.
The first example is our GOOD………well done to Curry’s on this part of the market. Curry’s presented a fantastic range in kettles, from high end at nearly £100 to cheap and cheerful for around £10, all laid out with clear “reasons to buy” and “how to buy” information. Frankly if I was buying a kettle I would pay a visit and buy one as it gives me not only a full range but clear spend thresholds.
Great if you have a lot of space yet I know that even if 30% of the range was taken away the movement from a cheap kettle, through to a decent offer to a high-end brag about in the pub type kettle would have still been retained. The buyer here clearly understands ranging.
Our next example is not so good. If most of your range is dominated by one type of product then it seems that either you are on the money with knowing what your customers want, you are in the pocket of a supplier who is leading you down the garden path, or you have lost touch. This example of toilet seats in B & Q could be good, but it just isn’t.
Retail consultants often get accused of simplifying to remove cost. We have specialised in reducing the cost of selling items, yet not at the expense of a range that delivers a Good, Better, Best offer to customers. The range allows a little ambition in purchase and clearly explains the difference between the various products and their features.
Against all of these factors, B & Q fail. The display is very functional with stock held behind the toilet seat and able to be tested (in part of course!) by the customer. The problem is, if you want a higher end solid wooden seat with a nice soft close and traditional wood stain then you have lost out. The ranging is grouped around a similar white plastic product of similar price points, just not good enough for a retailer with this amount of experience facing an incoming challenge of a new more professional competitor (Bunnings).
The Ugly example is worse possibly because the store itself is named “The Range”. Again, we see a display dominated by lower end product that offers little in the way of ambition.
The fact that the display prohibits trial of the product and is destined to look scruffy as soon as the first customer physically browses, means the operational elements have just not been considered.
If you know that your customer is working to an extremely tight budget, you still should be offering a broader spectrum of choice in quality, look and feel. A more systematic approach to ranging is one of the key factors The Range must adopt for future development. Not doing so will limit the types of customers they attract. Even with a cap on price, there needs to be a way you can help people differentiate the product themselves.
Ranging is definitely rule number 1 in retail, before selling skills, service, pricing or margin, none of which matters if people do not get excited by what you offer. Retail consulting is a funny old game, 5 years ago in the Ukraine we were telling people to reduce the range on DIY products by c.40%. The reason was you just could not see the wood for the trees. Making range visible is an art in itself, but we’ll save that for next week’s visits!