Good shop….Bad shop!

Every market place has its share of good and bad retailers. We have all been into shops, where you think ‘ how do they stay in business?’ And you go into another selling the same type of product and feel enticed to buy.

So what? Who cares? The good ones survive and prosper and bad ones go to the wall. That is not always the case, but importantly in a relatively small market place like party I believe it has other implications.

Bad shops….discourage innovation and efficiency by suppliers. If the supply chain is faced with outlets that don’t perform well, they will not create new and innovative product as they, rightly, think that the outlets are unlikely to be able sell the product. Generally as poor retailers are happy with the status quo they will not push supply chain to greater efficiencies. To use an historical context, prior to the invasion of the party Giants from across the Atlantic, traditional British party suppliers, were just that ‘traditional ‘. There was no impetus to innovate and profitability was reasonable as there was little competition. Most suppliers were small family businesses , who had been around for some time and did not look beyond what happened last year or maybe tweak a colour or shape, or worse still wait for a major event eg Royal Wedding.

The interesting feature here is that in Europe it was a little different. The suppliers were larger and more innovative, albeit relying heavily on the carnival season. Maybe not as a consequence but perhaps just coincidental party retailers appear to be developing more quickly there than in the UK. 

Bad shops…..discourage customers. In my experience some quite literally. They seem to actively dislike anyone who walks in the shop. As a party is an occasional purchase for those who only have access or experience a ‘poor retailer’ are unlikely to return and maybe think every retailer is the same. Not all will turn to the internet, as it could inconvenient or not realistic ie large minute decisions. For those that do it may obviate their need to find a good retailer.

So what set me off along this negative path. I have seen some in recent weeks and start thinking if there a future for the party retailer. Then I go into a good one and all is well again……

What is to be done ? Nothing …..we can only hope that any potential new entrant into retail market visit the better stores and say ‘yes, this is the sort of store I want to operate’. This needs to happen if we still want bricks and mortar party stores in the UK in ten years time.

What a Delight…a Party Delights shop!

A couple of weeks ago Progressive Party magazine announced the opening of a retail store by Party Delights. As it is only a half hour drive for me , I thought it worth a look at what could be a significant event for our industry.

There will be some out there, thinking what is significant about a new party shop …they come and go all the time…yes they do, but this is a little different.

Party Delights is the U.K’s largest online party retailer. It is also owned by the worlds largest party product supplier. Either one would be significant on its own, together it is highly significant, not only for the UK but possibly for Europe. But I will come back to that.

The store, itself, is located in a very busy shopping area in Romford, Essex. It is not for me to write a review of the shop. However, what it does emphasise is that even as the worlds largest supplier of a particular product range it is very difficult to create a successful retail format. Unless, you are Apple, a parfumerie or a specialist chocolatier it is very tough creating a retail store formula that can capture the imagination of the consumer. Nike, Sony et al try and succeed to a lesser degree. No matter how big your range is it is unlikely to offer the consumer everything they are looking for when browsing for ideas. Consumers go to Nike because they want the Nike brand. When they go into a party shop they are looking for ideas. 

A regular customer of the Party Delights web site, will be somewhat surprised if they were to visit this store as the offering is very different. A retail store cannot offer the same depth of product as a web site. But whereas the web site, in this case, offers the best product of a number of brands. The store offers only the best of one brand.

The significance of this event, is that Party Delights (and Amscan) feel that there is a need to be on the High Street. I cannot see it being the only store, if for no other reason than a single store will not make them enough money. Consequently, there are likely to be more, and I suspect not just in the UK. 
For the party retailers out there, at the moment, these are two good signs.

1. The largest party web shop feels the need to have a bricks and mortar store

2. In its current format, this store will not be a threat to the independent party retailer.

There is a ‘however’. It is further evidence that the future is not through a single channel. If you are web based, some form of store connection is needed. If you are store based you need a web presence. Alibaba (China’s Amazon) has just announced a tie up with a Chinese electronics retailer which has 1600 outlets. More will follow.