For high street retailers to survive in today’s market retailers need to be “customer focussed rather than channel focussed,” according to Mothercare CEO, Simon Calver.
Brought in to bring the ailing retailer back from the brink in February 2012, Calver has spent the last nine months at the helm of what he describes as an “evolution not a revolution” for the retailer.
With no high street experience, the ex-LOVEFiLM CEO’s three-year plan for the retailer includes “building customer loyalty through a multi-channel strategy” and changing the current perception of the brand amongst shoppers.
Speaking to The Drum shortly after the retailer posted a 7.4 per cent slump in group sales for its third quarter, Calver remained positive about the retailer’s fortunes citing that Mothercare had made “strong progress” throughout 2012.
Now trading from 269 UK stores instead of the 311 at the beginning of the financial year, total UK sales were down 12.9 per cent as a result. Sales at its online business, Direct in Home, rose 0.9 per cent, with December sales increasing more than 12 per cent.
Discussing the results, Calver said: “I think it reinforces exactly what I thought and what we saw in the marketplace which is that online trading continues to go from strength to strength. If you look at the results it’s interesting that the likes of ASOS and Argos are up, it shows that what’s happening in retail now is that multi-channel is a must.”
In discussing the current state of the high street – with HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster all going into administration in the last week alone - Calver explained that despite the grim news “stores still have a huge role to play” but added that retailers “need to create reasons to bring customers back into stores, other than just sales”.
One manner in which Mothercare is attempting to achieve this is ambition is by holding “themed in-store events”, having just announced a partnership with Channel 4 show ‘One Born Every Minute’. As part of the deal the retailer will be hosting weekly Twitter parties with health professionals and midwives, which will then be rolled out across Mothercare’s in-store Baby & Me events.
When asked if his online background influenced his plans for the retailer, Calver confirmed that “absolutely it does… I guess there are two reasons for that, one is the expectation that this online would be one of my main focuses. Secondly, it’s a passion of mine to ensure we take this huge opportunity for us as a business”.
With recent research showing that 81 per cent of expectant mums and mums with children under 10 owned a smartphone - more than any other group - and that 74 per cent said they’d be lost without their phone, a major aspect of Calver’s strategy implementation since becoming CEO in April last year included the launch of a dedicated, stand-alone app.
The app itself incorporates “lots of different apps in one” and since its release at the tail end of last year has garnered some 60,000 downloads and, according to Calver, “in terms of commercial performance is already doing better than our mobile site”.
Both m-commerce and e-commerce were cited as Calver as “big opportunites” for the year ahead, especially as the retailer’s international division performed better in the 13 weeks to 12 January, recording a 12 per cent surge in retail sales, rising to 14.8 per cent at constant currencies.
When asked what 2013 holds for the retailer, Calver replied that Mothercare’s direction will remain to be to link its “online and offline strategy together with a strong brand portfolio”, concluding that “single-channel” brand strategies are a thing of the past for retailers adding Mothercare is firmly “moving in the right direction, as ever these things take time”.