A recent business trip out to Milan gave us the perfect excuse to hit the shops after work – purely in the name of research, obviously! Whilst wondering around the numerous designer clothing stores in Italy’s design and fashion capital, we couldn’t help but think how many of our equestrian and country retailers are really missing a trick or two when it comes to creating a fantastic shopping experience and in turn selling more clothing.
Generally, designer stores have the luxury of plenty of floor space and the interior designers to help them create the “perfect shopping environment” for people to browse, stay and buy. However, there is much more than this to their success; it’s also about merchandising the stock you do have in a way that will be inviting to the customer as soon as they enter the store.
One thing which always frustrates us with most equestrian retailers is the way that everything is often just crammed onto a rail. Indeed, we’re sure the “Queen Of Shops” Mary Portas would have an absolute field day in many of them! And while, with our MD’s many years of experience of shopping as a stylist under her belt, she can quickly scan through rails and pick out what she likes, most people don’t have the expertise or the time, so why make life hard for them? Plus, cramming a £250 jacket onto an overstuffed rail will probably make it look like the sale rail at Primark, which isn’t going to be particularly alluring to the customer, is it?
As a customer walking into a store, we want to be guided and to have creative ideas presented to us both verbally and (more importantly) visually. So, if you can merchandise cleverly, display stock so that the accessories work with the clothing, and display the clothing itself in a clear and easy way for the customer to browse, surely you are much more likely to sell them more than just the breeches or the tweed cap they came in for?!
Colour coordinating the stock and interspersing with other brands which work well together also helps, as do mannequins wearing “the look for this season”. These are easy ways to draw the customer in, yet many equestrian and country fashion retailers would rather have space taken up by a plastic horse with a rug on it? Most horse owners have enough rugs to last a life time and beyond, we know that we horse owners need very little encouragement to buy a rug… but when it comes to clothing, we know from talking directly to the retailers how much more difficult this can be to sell.
We think many equestrian retailers and indeed many equestrian brands need to realise that people who ride/own horses don’t just switch off when they leave the yard. They are just like the rest of us: constantly being influenced by all that is around us, from billboards to TV, celebrities to the mainstream and fashion media, and so on. Isn’t it time, then, that our “horsey & country fashion” brands take a look at retailers out of the equestrian sector and borrow a few choice tips?
We know retail in general has taken a big hit in the recession, but with some simple tweaks, we hope more country and equestrian retailers, brands, businesses and shops will not only just survive but also thrive.