Posts Tagged ‘retail’

Personal shopper services (and the SQ plane fire)

I cannot imagine what it is like to be on a plane that has engine problems and catches fire upon landing. I’m glad everyone (222 passengers, 19 crew) are safe.

I was just taking a long haul flight myself and wondering why they bother showing the safety video, since these days you don’t really find the need for such things (planes disappear; they crash; you rarely hear about how putting on one’s lifejacket saved your life).

As an aside, a lot of the photos (and a video) seem to come from a Ms. Lee Bee Yee, who was presumably flying to Milan to perform “personal shopping” services (she is the proprietor of a site called Premium Mall). A simple search of her name reveals that she’s been 43 for quite sometime! Emerging Trend of Online Retailers Attempting to Evade GST Jan/Feb 2015, Singapore Airlines plane catches fire on Changi Airport runway; no injuries reported. I’m sure there are such “personal shoppers” operating in Malaysia too; I can only imagine what happens when customs catches up.

The Star in Malaysia recently reported that the future might be personal shoppers, in Parkson’s decline a sign of the times for retail stores. The whole article is worth a read, because Malaysia in this respect, seems “backwards” to what is taking much of the retail world by storm (key: nationwide e-commerce needs to rock; too much just focus on the Klang Valley). But the fancy quote for one to think about:

The future wave could be the birth of “personal shoppers” where they shop for others for a fee.

A “personal shopper” acts as a conduit to connect individual purchasers with online websites in other countries such as the United States that do not provide delivery services of their products to this part of the world.

The personal shopper takes down orders, secures an appropriate price and sources for the products in a foreign country. The personal shopper then handles the delivery from the foreign country to the customer.

And it is all done at a fraction of a cost compared to what the boutiques charge.

At the moment, celebrities generally engage the services of “personal shoppers” also known as “personal groomers” to source for their clothes.

In recent times, services of “personal shoppers” have been engaged by professionals and the working crowd to get the best bargains from the Internet.

A trip to the Microsoft Store

Today instead of stepping into the Apple Store on Stockton St, I decided to walk past it and head to look for the Microsoft Store. It is inside the Westfield San Francisco mall. There are plenty of signs to tell you its next to Bloomingdales on the 2nd floor. 

I finally reach the store and its bright. There’s lots of light to ensure that the place is bright. It reminds me very much of an Apple Store – the clothing worn by staff look like I stepped into an Apple Store. The layout is very similar as well.

Staff are aplenty. They are very eager to help you. People are also aplenty. Yes — many people are interested in getting their hands on devices.

I played with a Surface RT with Windows. My pod had a Touch Cover. I tried typing coherently but it seems that every substantial sentence had about one or two errors. Considering the Type Cover isn’t far off in terms of price, I don’t know who will buy the Touch Cover. It takes a little while to get used to the Metro interface, but for some reason, you get a stock Windows look & feel when its time to launch applications like Word. Hmm. This isn’t a tablet. This isn’t a laptop. It’s some kind of hybrid. I’m not so sure, considering I’ve been using “modern” tablets since the iPad first came out.

Then I moved over to a laptop. This was one made by Asus. I saw a stylus next to it, so I tried touching the screen. A kind store employee told me that this particular laptop/tablet hybrid was weird, and closed the lid, only to reveal the tablet at the back of the regular screen. That was touch screen and you could use the stylus or your finger. What an odd hybrid!

I went back to the Surface RT with Windows to see the store employee demoing it to two people. When asked what they used at home, they said they had a MacBook Pro. Oops. The employee could have done a better job at understanding what the Finder, etc. was all about, but he had no clue about the Mac. Which makes it really hard to sell to switchers, especially if you’re selling the Surface RT with Windows as a laptop replacement! During the demo, he tried to show how cool the augmented reality maps were to work, but when he started moving it around and turning, the display didn’t turn, so the demo failed. Poor chap.

There were many devices and so many devices that are iMac lookalikes. I am impressed by all the makers of devices. There are other things for sale, like accessories. A small corner for Nokia exists too – to showcase their phones.

I saw many people checking their emails, doing things that they would do at a cybercafe. I wonder if they were treating it like a cybercafe?

A few takeaways:

  1. Real estate matters. Location, location, location. Apple is at street level. The Microsoft Store needs to tell you how to find it (inside Westfield, next to Bloomingdales on the 2nd floor).
  2. Teach the staff what the Mac is all about. It will help sell to switchers.
  3. Make sure canned demos exist. There’s nothing like a failing demo when you try to sell something.
  4. I didn’t check to see if there’s free WiFi in the store, but if there isn’t, make sure its like the Apple Store – this is one reliable thing you can find in any Apple store.

On luxury brands

I’m not a fan of Louis Vuitton. I just don’t like the monogram, mainly because it is so heavily counterfeited that you can’t spot a real from a fake. Some key takeaways from LVMH unit sales growth disappoints:

  • “It depends on aspirational demand and new consumers.” This is true for all luxury products. Austerity measures, economic downturns, etc. will hit you where it hurts.
  • “The risk of ubiquity is that . . . the consumer, seeing the same products everywhere, all the time, starts to perceive a brand as being too common,” said analysts at HSBC in a note published in January.

So if you’re a luxury brand, exclusivity is important too. A fine balance for growth vs. exclusivity is key it seems.

Retail terms

Some new retail terms that don’t really mean much in the Malaysian market: concept store, pop-up shop.

Retail usually requires a rental of 3+3 (sometimes 2+2). Those are years. If you’re going into a concept, be prepared to spend. Concept stores are no different from a regular retail store in a department shop in Malaysia. Its just a nicer/different word to use.

Pop-up shops in a retail location? They are usually 3-month rental terms (sometimes 2 months first, followed by 4 month cycles). If its a shop, you’ve got to furnish it like your concept store. If it’s a cart, you pack up & setup daily. Carts aren’t cheap (of course cheaper than a retail store; but once you add in cost per square footage, you’re really only saving on furnishings). 

Remember a 10am-10pm opening schedule. Even during public holidays. With rules that usually prevent you from eating at your cart/pop-up store, with the ideal being you have 2-shifts of work daily.

Overall, there is no such thing as a concept store or pop-up shop in Malaysia. You just have the burden that is retail. Plain & simple.

Why a physical retail store won out over an online purchase today

I love to buy stuff from Amazon, so why not try buying stuff from Lazada right? This was the case today for the purchase of a juicer (no, not for me). In the end, ESH, a physical store won. Why did I choose physical over e-commerce?

Seeing a list of juicers is great. But how do I know how they work? How do I know which one is easier to clean? How do I know if anecdotally, one comes back more for warranty claims? How do I know if a juice extractor can only juice 2 oranges at one go, then requiring a one minute break (maybe I can find this in the manual, but really, when was the last time a consumer looked at a manual?).

So, first problem – not being sure which juicer to buy. Lazada is new and lacks customer reviews. In fact, I’m not sure there will be quality customer reviews that will make me trust it anyway. Physical wins out totally here as you can touch the juicers and get guided.

Oh, but it’s surely cheaper online, right? Wrong. Every juicer in store had a retail price, but it also came with a “best price”. If you’re Malaysian, you also probably love to haggle – try doing that at an online store! Believe it or not, the best price matched the Lazada prices hands down.

Delivery times? 4-6 business days seems to be standard on Lazada. At ESH, I could walk out with the item immediately.

Payment? ESH like any good physical retailer accepts credit cards (Visa/Master only though). They also give you Bonuslink points. Lazada is no different, with B.Card points.

Warranty is a big deal. If something goes wrong, I can just walk into ESH and they’ll handle it for me. My family & I have been buying from them for decades. If something goes wrong with my purchase from Lazada, I’ll probably have to call up the individual manufacturer and work it out myself. After-sales service is very important – what has online done for improving this space?

Now, the juicer we finally settled on for the gift was a Philips HR1871. It was RM11 cheaper on Lazada at RM688 (we paid RM699, best price rate with no haggling today). However at ESH it came with another attachment: a juice extractor. It’s a whole other attachment, and if you buy it retail from other brands it would set you back RM130 or so (even on lazada). 

What did all this cost? A short drive (at most 2L of petrol burnt) as well as a RM0.60 sen parking fee. The time spent would have been the same, if not more online, as one would have to watch videos elsewhere, read reviews, etc.

Leaves a lot to be desired for online shopping when it comes to white goods. Notice that if I were purchasing a tablet or cellphone it would be completely different (I can take the cheapest price since I have some domain knowledge). 

I wonder what other experiences are…

Spotting retail trends

I just listened to Monocle 24, The Entrepreneurs episode #45 (forward 32:40-42:14). Short interview with Arnault Castel. He’s the man behind kapok, a brand gaining traction in Hong Kong. I think they just launched in Malaysia as well in the Gardens.

Why is this interview interesting? Quite simply because Castel ended up in Hong Kong by accident (from France), worked in banking (a French bank doing stuff overseas – he didn’t want to do military service after his business studies), built up Lomography Asia, continued his expansion to bringing in Moleskine/Rhodia/etc, and now does kapok. Key points to note? He did Lomo’s in 2001, Moleskine in 2004, and so on. He’s a retail trend spotter.

He’s also a bootstrapper: all his ventures started out of his home office.

The importance of frequent travel is probably brought up a lot in this interview too. Helps with the spotting.

He talks about building community & community marketing for Lomography.

Further reading.