One of the wonderful things about working with an iconic brand like RM Williams is the rich history and tradition the brand has built up over the past 80+ years. A brand built on the foundations of handmade, quality products that stand the test of time.
In 2018, we were approached by the owners of the business to assist them in providing a strategic network plan for growth.
The brand had been experiencing somewhat of a renaissance, with millennials now flocking to the brand in droves. Yes there is still a market for the brand in that 50+ demographic, but it is now seen to be a “hip” fashionable brand that has opened up new markets for the business.
Our brief was to help RM Williams better understand what is driving sales performance for the current network of stores and to identify what we call the key sales drivers. The majority of these stores are in two formats 1) CBD and 2) Shopping centre. Most of the existing stores were performing at or above expectation however the two different formats operate under different factors and it is important to better understand the characteristics that impact sales performance for each store type.
One of the first questions that needs to be answered for any brand is to determine whether the brand is a destination or impulse driven brand. You can generally answer this question by asking if the customer would make a predetermined decision to visit the store as part of an outing whether that be Yes some brands can be both, however most brands still need some level of (impulse) passing foot traffic past the door to survive.
The first stage in any project is to identify the key sales drivers for the brand. In other word’s, is residential demographics more important than competitive impacts? Or is the size of the centre or MAT (moving annual turnover) of the shopping precinct more important than the specific site characteristics?
Surveying is the best way to gather enough of the site specific characteristics to feed into any analysis of what is likely driving sales. Again, a lot of people put too much emphasis on residential demographics as a means of determining whether a chosen site will perform. We have seen enough evidence with 25 years’ experience that other factors can and do have a significant impact on store performance. Focussing too much energy on just residential demographics can mean missed opportunities and underperforming stores.
Once the survey data is compiled, we run a correlation analysis to determine those factors (characteristics) that have the biggest impacts on sales variability. Factors like income, ethnicity, age, store size, positioning, signage & visibility are all likely to have an impact on sales performance. The most important question is....how much of an impact?
Once we were able to determine the key sales drivers for the brand, it gave RM Williams a clear understanding of what to focus on. The process then leads to building sales & cannibalisation models for the different store formats. The importance of sales forecasting models was evident for two reasons 1) it is then run over the current network of stores to determine which stores we deemed to be over performing, meeting expectation or under performing and 2) provides a sales forecast for any new site introduced into the network.
The final piece of the puzzle was to produce a strategic network plan incorporating new growth targets being careful to take into consideration any possible cannibalisation impacts on the existing store network. A good rule of thumb is that the more destinational a brand is, the greater the risk of cannibalisation if located too close to an existing store. Trapping customer data allows for an analysis of how far customers travel to visit a store.
One of the hallmarks of working with the RM Williams team is the considered, methodical approach taken to investing in new sites. The models & tools we were able to provide the business, allowed the property team to focus on the things that really mattered and not be tempted by sites that didn't fit the profile.
Our view is that it is better to learn from what’s gone before then to repeat the mistakes of the past. RM Williams is a classic story of a brand with such rich history that is as relevant today as it was 50 + years ago evolving with time to become the must have fashion brand for a new wave of customers.