Typical: you tell some women the High Street is dying and they refuse to believe it

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Retail needs innovative marketing borne out of deep customer understanding and brave thinking.

The Great British high-street is taking a battering. There’s a seemingly constant stream of bad news from profit warnings to store closures for beloved institutions like M&S and Debenhams, and administration and buy-outs for others like Coast.

While there are many who say the High Street is at an end, there are others creating opportunity in the face of this adversity. These innovators and change agents are prospering. This was clearly demonstrated at last night’s Women in Marketing Awards where we were very proud to see two of our fiercely fabulous clients win awards. Gemma Mason, head of customer experience of Superdrug, picked up the ChangeMaker Award and Ann Steer, chief customer officer of N’Brown, won the Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to Marketing.

What makes these and other successful brands, like Primark and JD Sport, find success where others are struggling? They’re thinking bravely and embracing customer difference.

While Superdrug and N’Browns brands, Simply Be and JD Williams, might have very different offerings, their approach to celebrating their customer’s differences has enabled them to build outstanding engagement and financial performance. This activity extends beyond traditional marketing, into deep relationship building, and actively involving customers in the creation of both programmes and products. Inclusivity and diversity sit at the heart of their success.

Simply Be champion curvy women and have teamed up with their sassiest influencers and customers to shape their new customer loyalty programme, Perks. Developed collaboratively with Cherry London to shake things-up and make a bottom line difference. Revenue rose by a shapely +16.3% FY18.

JD Williams are on a mission to change the way the world observes fashion for women over 45 years old, empowering them to live life to full and celebrating their fabulousness. In addition to casting their latest Autumn/Winter ‘I AM’ campaign with real people from the UK high-street, just last week JD Williams launched a rewards programme that recognises their customers individually and rewards them for living life in full colour.

Superdrug are also leading the charge by doing it differently and embracing their customers, whoever they are. From the LGBTQ community who were the focus of their “Beauty without bias” campaign to “Shades of Beauty”, a campaign that aims to make black and Asian skin and hair products more accessible and affordable on the high street to Superdrug’s vegan pop-up store where customers can discover vegan makeup and skincare.

Gemma Mason has fearlessly led this charge and continues to innovate with the development of their customer engagement programme with Cherry. Whether it’s saluting Punky Moms, a community of ‘badass’ parents who believe in empowerment and fighting against injustice, to working with Marie Curie’s behind the scene carers, who work tirelessly to support terminally ill patients and their families. Superdrug are getting closer to powerful micro-groups of customers to co-create communications, and support the things that matter to them, while involving their own front-line people to make a difference. And, the results speak for themselves; Superdrug was a sharp climber moving up from a position 48th to 4th in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index in January 2018 and seeing profits increase 16% to June 2018.

The shift to online shopping, rising overheads, over expansion and ever more demanding consumers, makes the challenge for retailers ever greater. The innovative marketing borne out of deep customer understanding and brave thinking, spearheaded by Gemma Mason for Superdrug and Ann Steer for N’Brown and developed by Cherry London, shows that the trend can be bucked and success achieved.

Vive la difference.

Tamara Gillan is chief executive officer and founder of Cherry London

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