In 2012, I have found myself working in central-eastern Europe quite often, visiting markets such as Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. With the massive growth in all forms of Western commerce, and particularly retailing in these vast former communist markets, it’s hardly surprising.
I have selected this image from Poland’s largest retailer Lpp, and the Reserved brand, to represent one such visit as part of a client VM development project. Lpp is based in the northern tri-state region known as ‘Tri-city’. Of the three cities that make up the area, (Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk) Gdansk is the biggest.
Gdansk is a city more commonly remembered for shipbuilding (not fashion!) and for the activities of Poland’s most famous son, Lech Walesa. Walesa co-founded ‘Solidarity’, the first official Trade Union to exist in the then, Soviet Union. Over many turbulent years, Solidarity and the political movement it spurred, proved instrumental in transforming Poland into the modern country that it is today. This is interesting as it forms a background and context to so much of what is now happening in Poland and other former Soviet states.
Lpp is a family owned business, which owns several retail brands including, Reserved, Cropp, Mohito and it latest clothing brand, Sinsay. The Reserved brand is by far the biggest company, both in terms of store numbers and financials. Arguably, it is also the most important brand to the business, operating 350 stores in a dozen countries within the region. Within the business it is said that when Reserved is good, all is good.
Lpp called in Visual Thinking during the summer. With our international credentials and experience of helping large consumer brands, we were briefed to provide a range of training and development to support various members of the Reserved team.
Initially, we met with members of Reserved Management to discuss the business, stores and evolution of the company. We took time to visit stores together and discussed the key development and learning needs. We agreed to run a week-long VM Strategy workshop to provide a combination of VM and retail theoretical content, and an intense practical activity to stimulate innovation, change and creative thinking for the business.
Our audience included the entire senior Reserved team including; people from product, marketing, operations, VM and communications departments – a complete cross functional group of the main brand stakeholders.
During the week, the workshop explored a stretching range of ‘best practice’ topics for the group to consider as part of its future retail strategy. The event was facilitated entirely in Polish, with dynamic presenter content, rich visual imagery and a series of engaging group sessions. Here, we explored the critical questions facing the Reserved brand as it considered its next ‘step change’ in brand delivery and retail VM policy for the estate.
During the event, we wanted to demonstrate how the brand could experiment more with VM by instigating changes to existing store policy. As such, we designed the workshop around transforming one store, with the participants being encouraged to explore the opportunities for change.
The transformation was carried out in the company’s flagship Galeria Baltyka store in Gdansk. It was completed in less than 24 hours using only the three Visual Thinking facilitators and twenty-five workshop delegates!
On completion, the level of change was dramatic! Revised product segmentation, new layouts, use of existing equipment and new VM techniques were deployed to transform the store. Best of all – this was achieved without new capital expenditure.
Two weeks after the workshop ended, Lpp Reserved told us of significant increases in category, product and store performance, giving further confidence in the learning that Visual Thinking had delivered.
Following the event, their team members have new knowledge, exciting development plans and a better understanding of their individual and combined roles for shaping future brand and VM delivery for Reserved. Other positive ‘by products’ were the new levels of cooperation and support that the team forged during the event – and the recognition of how they can work better together, and in more integrated ways.
It was satisfying to see how the approach and content we planned for the workshop worked effectively in practice. It’s why leading brands work with us to address these important development needs, taking the risk out of progressing significant change.
Despite being a stressful week, we never doubted the end results. The combination of our retail knowledge, experience and expert skills were combined with hard work, and application by the Reserved team. It’s said that the Polish have a strong work ethic, it was certainly evident during those five long days and nights back in August.
We look forward to continuing our relationship with Lpp and its retail brands in 2013.