Jack Spade

Build it and they will come. Sometimes. by heathrowkennedy

A few weeks ago a pleasant Saturday late afternoon flick through my Instagram feed was ruined by the news from someone I follow that the Jack Spade store in London had closed permanently.   He had just made his last purchase there.

Disbelieving and hoping the individual concerned was wrong I checked and sadly it was all confirmed.   The parent company Kate Spade & Co had shuttered the 19 Kate Spade Saturday stores  - this intrigued me so I dug a little deeper and was not at all surprised this had been necessary although completely surprised that the concept had been advanced in the first place, but I digress - along with the 12 global Jack Spade stores.

Still not believing this I made sure I went past the Brewer Street store at the first opportunity.

Bad news confirmed.

So why the disappointment ?  Well I love the brand.   It's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness - indistructable longevity.  Jack Spade stores are, correction were, cool and staffed with incredible characters who remembered each customer and who took the time to work out your requirements.

But I was always conscious that 'footfall' was low.  It's a challenge for all brands but especially smaller ones.   A physical store establishes credibility (although there are other ways) but it also creates a massive cost centre.   For a relatively nascent brand that's trouble.

But it needn't be.   Brands need to rethink their approach to retail.   A physical store is a sunk cost - keeping the lights on after hours and adding a few staff are minimal costs but the opportunity to sweat the asset and create experiences which pull in loyal and new customers is limitless.

Instead the retail environment is almost always abandoned after hours.   

There may have been non-Jack Spade reasons why this route to market failed (and that's a pity because this is a brand that should thrive) but I also think that the plan to make this outpost of the brand a vibrant contributor was missing.   It's a shame because anyone who visited that store was both well served by the staff and  he product they bought.

If you're responsible for a new store opening then have a plan in place for at least 6 -12 months in advance with activation ideas - attracting customers in during and after hours - make it a true brand cathedral and a commercial success rather than a line item that bleeds red.

Retail is all about empowerment by heathrowkennedy

Technology has made bricks and mortar retail a difficult place. It requires the brand, if it desires a physical retail presence, to make a special effort to engage the customer. A truly immersive experience helps, as does stocking unique items which are only available in store above and beyond that it all comes down to the retail staff themselves. It's those staff members who interact directly with the customer and, especially in the world of luxury goods, are the front line in selling the emotional and the rational benefits of purchase.

Last Sunday I had the perfect (and I use that descriptor deliberately) retail experience at Jack Spade's Brewer Street, London store. Readers of my blog will know I'm a Jack Spade fan but I had only gone in to kill a few minutes before a nearby lunch appointment. Regulars will also know this is usually a fatal mistake for me.

Firstly Jack Spade staff always seem to have the Jack Spade DNA running through them. They look like their customer base and behave as if the company is theirs. It's a recipe that's conducive to selling.

Dan walked over and engaged me in conversation about the bag I was looking at. Quickly establishing that I'm no stranger to the brand but also taking time to explain the functional qualities of the fabric. We chatted some more and I decided to purchase.

Now, for whatever reason, I've always managed to not be on their database (the lifeblood of a luxury brand) as he completed the transaction he causally signed me up and then after finding out what bags I had bought previously gave me a 20% discount card to use against all future purchases. It was entirely discretionary. The power lay with him and he obviously knew when to make the offer. He then said he would keep in touch and drop me a postcard.

And he did. Reinforcing the message with a little call to action for me.

It's a textbook example of hiring the right staff and empowering them to act in a way which can only help the business. And here I am writing about it.

They also make awesome bags so go and take a look !