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Monday, January 26, 2009

Refocus Product: Retail As Curator & Less But Better

museum art glass exhibit originally uploaded by Campbellism.
Here's a new way to think about your store experience and the role you play for customers: be a retail curator.

A museum curator edits what will be on view during an exhibit. S/he selects how and what to display to express a coherent story. Instead of making visitors walk through the equivalent of a warehouse - where everything is stored, some visible, some not, and most inaccessible - the curator creates an environment that tells a relevant story without overwhelming the visitor showing only a subset of the total items available often on a rotating basis.

This advice comes from Booz & Co. partner Karla Martin in a Marketing Daily MediaPost News interview titled "Sales Down? Time to Dial Down the SKUs" where she also touches on "smart allocation -- stores devoting more space to what consumers want, and limiting the offerings that simply get in their way."

As a shopper overwhelmed with too much product choice - and a lot of it lousy at best - I applaud the desire to address "widespread consumer frustration out there, with many shoppers feeling there are too many choices, presented in a way that's needlessly complicated."

Max Kalehoff recommends in AttentionMax that we "Maximize Purpose!" Cleanse, rebalance and declutter.

Be a curator, then, and address the Paradox of Choice! Refocus your product so what you offer is relevant to customers. Make it simpler for your customers to understand what value you offer them. As you curate, though, think hard on "less, bItalicut better" product. That, to me, is where the opportunity lies.

Consider what Christian Davies in Retail Design Diva has to say: "Imagine a retail future that is founded on this idea. A future that eschews the disposable in favor of things that can actually last and where consumerism flourishes against a backdrop of responsibility. A future where the American shopper will pay a fair price for these better quality goods, but also where our pocketbooks will be liberated as we finally break our addiction to cheap junk."


He also writes: "As John Ruskin put it over a century ago: "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper"...a sentiment echoed by Isaac Mizrahi in last week’s WWD interview focused on his new role as creative director of Liz Claiborne: “In times of financial crisis, you don’t necessarily look for the cheapest thing; you look for the most valuable.

This is something echoed in boston.com's "Retailers overhaul business as consumers pull back." Consumers aren't looking for disposable items anymore. They have new standards as they question what represents true value. And, in "Lessons Learned And the Damage Done" HFN states that "Good Product Still Overcomes Bad Times."

As curator then, you have the opportunity to redefine your store experience, to declutter, to refocus your product story, to refind your purpose and recreate relevance for your customers in a way that sets you apart from the sea of frustrating and meaningless choices out there.

What an opportunity!

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