We asked four high street heroes (and seasoned JLA speakers) how they have emerged from recession. Queen of Shops Mary Portas, lingerie entrepreneur Michelle Mone, Innocent co-founder Richard Reed and former Dragon James Caan offer up their pearls of wisdom…
How can the high street rebuild confidence?
Mary: With innovation and bags of trust .
Michelle: Communication, reliability, integrity and professionalism breed a positive culture that underpins everything – but nothing’s more important than staff retention. It’s all about how you treat each other day-to-day.
What impact is digital having on the high street?
Michelle: Consumers know they can find a good deal on the web. Meanwhile entrepreneurs get access to a focus group to analyse trends and test products, so it’s critical for almost any thriving businesses.
Mary: The winning brands will seamlessly merge their online and offline offer. Retailers have started to understand the web offers dialogue, brand immersion and a right of reply that has been extremely difficult up to now.
What did you learn from the recession?
Michelle: I learned to adapt, and to make change part of company culture. It was also a great opportunity to improve the work ethic.
Richard: After nine years of extreme growth we saw decline and redundancies. We learned a lot, the hard way. But we emerged leaner and more focused – so ultimately it’s been good for us.
Who’s most likely to thrive in this climate?
Richard: Those that sell experiences rather than things – we have enough ‘stuff.’
Mary: The experiential, the avuncular, the collaborative and the value-orientated.
Do you have a formula for beating the competition?
James: My mantra has always been a phrase my father taught me: ‘Observe the masses and do the opposite.’
How do you stay ahead of competition in a flat market?
James: You need to maintain an entrepreneurial culture and a focus on people. It’s very common to become too process-driven as you grow.
Richard: Invest in nourishing the relationship between your brand and your consumer – it’s where the real value in any business lies.
Can SMEs compete with multinationals these days?
Mary: Only where they offer something genuinely different .
Richard: The only way to beat competition is to do a better job of looking after consumers. Fortunately that’s as possible now as it’s ever been.