Why Joan failed in fashion retailing.
Joan is an intelligent, well-educated, attractive girl of twenty-four. Fresh from a prestigious university, Joan got a job as an assistant buyer in ready-to-wear goods at a low-to-medium-priced department store. She was highly recommended. “Joan has ambition, talent, and enthusiasm,” one letter said. “She is certain to succeed in a big way.”
But Joan did not succeed in a “big way,” Joan lasted only eight months and then quit retailing for another job. I knew her buyer well, and one day I asked her what happened.
“Joan is a fine girl, and she has fine qualities,” she said. “But she had one major limitation.”
“What was that?” I asked.
“Well Joan was forever buying merchandise that she likes but most of our customers didn’t. She selected styles, colours, materials, and prices she liked without putting herself in the shoes of the people who shop here. When I’d suggest to her that maybe a certain line wasn’t right for us, she’d say, ‘Oh, they’ll love this. I do. I think this will move fast.
Joan had been brought up in a well-to-do home. She has been educated to want quality. Price was not important to her. Joan just couldn’t see clothing through the eyes of low-to-middle-income people. So, the merchandise she bought just wasn’t suitable.
A lot of businesses have failed due to assumptions of how potential consumers will react to an existing or prospective offering, through perception that is not based on accurate data or no data at all. As they say, “assumption is the mother of failure”. It is very easy to get carried away with the rush of building up a business or putting out a new offering because your idea is great and looks very likely to succeed according to your instincts. As a result, a lot of eager entrepreneurs and organisations tend to focus on all other areas that they believe will make a business work and tend to forget what the most powerful entity of the business – consumers – thinks.
Consumers can sack everybody in an organisation including the CEO because their repeat purchase can make or mar a business. Unfortunately, the mistake of ignoring what the real shot caller thinks is one of the reasons for the death of many SMEs in Nigeria.
It is vital to understand that how consumers perceive your products and the gap it will fill in their lives – time, money, convenience etc – provides deep insights into the success and longevity of your product /services. This insight will determine how to cautiously proceed with your plan whether to make go/no go decision, modify your solution and relaunch, recall your products, reposition your brand, rebrand the product / service, advertise etc.
In-depth information about your consumers is one of the several reasons businesses and organisations need market research.
Written by Tolu Atoyebi, Intern, BanahGrace Nigeria Limited.
Story culled from “The magic of thinking big”