All the World’s a Stage: Si­mon Burstein Talks Shop Floor Theater


WWD Digital Daily - - The Reviews - Samantha Conti

BRICKS-AND-MOR­TAR STORES have a lot go­ing against them, es­pe­cially in the U.K. where shop­keep­ers can be locked into oner­ous leases and bat­tles with land­lords, but re­tail­ers can rise up and make a change, said Si­mon Burstein, who’s spent his ca­reer close to the shop floor.

Burstein is a Bri­tish re­tail blue-blood: His fam­ily founded the lux­ury de­signer haven Browns and even­tu­ally sold it to Far­fetch, and for more than two decades he served as vice president of Soniia Rykiel in Paris. He has gone on to open The Place Lon­don, a group of lux­ury multi­brand re­tail­ers in cen­tral Lon­don. He is also the owner of Leather­smith of Lon­don, pur­veyor of leather-bound books and ac­ces­sories.

He be­lieves re­tail­ers need to pol­ish their shop floor acts in or­der to keep the cus­tomer re­turn­ing for more. “Shops are a theater and a stage, the clothes are the props and the staff are the ac­tors,” he said, adding that the per­for­mances have to be five- star ev­ery day.

Sales­peo­ple are key and need to be tal­ented, mo­ti­vated — and val­ued: “I think good cus­tomer ser­vice is time­less, and staff is the most im­por­tant thing. They have to know ev­ery­thing about the prod­ucts, and it’s re­ally im­por­tant that they are en­gaged and they know what’s on­line and in-store. They have to be trained, and val­ued more, and I think this is one of the ar­eas that is def­i­nitely worth in­vest­ing in.”

Re­tail­ers also need to ensure that sales and mark­downs don’t spin out of con­trol. “We know that sales hurt the bot­tom line and set a prece­dent for the cus­tomer. If you know that a shop is go­ing to go on sale in two weeks’ time, then why should we go shop­ping?”

Burstein called for more pric­ing trans­parency, and said that brands need to pro­tect lo­cal re­tail­ers world­wide. “Geo­pric­ing is a price struc­ture the brands should be en­forc­ing. The prob­lem is this: If a client can buy a de­signer prod­uct on­line, from an­other coun­try, for less than the lo­cal re­tail­ers are sell­ing it, the chances are they will. And you can be sure that you’ve lost a sale. Brands need to pro­tect the lo­cal re­tailer, and set the pa­ram­e­ters for on­line play­ers by en­sur­ing they re­spect those prices.”

Keep­ing the shop floor sea­sonal is also key, Burstein said, adding that he’s in­tro­duced two African de­sign­ers in July, “be­cause it’s sum­mer, it’s boil­ing hot, and I don’t want fur coats in­tro­duced in the shops.”

It’s cru­cial that re­tail­ers think about dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, bring­ing in nov­elty, max­i­miz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to gain in­sights and an­tic­i­pat­ing trends.

“I think hav­ing a unique prod­uct is very im­por­tant, and we all know the first thing that you look at when you go to a shop is usu­ally the win­dow. Make sure that it’s at­trac­tive and grabs peo­ple’s at­ten­tion.” He added that mu­sic and light­ing are key, too, be­cause “they re­ally cre­ate a party am­bi­ence.”

Spoil­ing the cus­tomer never fails — although Burstein is not keen on dis­counts. In­stead, he added, gifts work a treat. “They say that most peo­ple who shop in lux­ury stores don’t need dis­counts, they just want to be pam­pered. So we say: ‘We’ll give you a Leather­smith of Lon­don di­ary. Do you want your ini­tials on it?’ Usu­ally, that does the trick.”

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