With its 50th anniversary looming, there was no better time to re-launch Minimax’s Toorak, Melbourne store than 2017. However, you would be forgiven for thinking that is quite a challenge considering the current retail climate.
Andrea McCormick, group merchandise and creative manager, the Homewares Group, says that while general feedback around the economic environment is challenging, there are still some areas of the business that are producing strong growth on last year.
“It’s about continuing to try new product and seek out new items until you are able to find what connects with your customers,” she explains.
“Understand your customer and local market demographics. We identify and respond to buying patterns that differ from our stores in Tasmania versus stores in Melbourne or South Australia—most businesses are not that nimble and therefore miss out on opportunities.”
As the oldest Minimax store and one of the largest in the group, it was important in the planning to ensure the Toorak store was set up as its flagship.
“The rebranding of the store started with the makeover of the store including replacing the floor, new lighting, fixturing, counters and introducing new ranges of product not available in other Minimax locations,” McCormick adds.
“We included a Wedding List Co (an online bridal registry service owned also by our group) service site where we have dedicated staff that prepare bridal registry lists either online or in-store.
“We also reinvested in our website, launching a new digital platform. The brief for the digital agency was to ensure that customers had the same sense of range, inspiration and assortment that you get from visiting one of our stores in order to achieve an omni-channel view of the brand.
“Finally, we celebrated the 50th birthday with multiple events for VIP customers, media, suppliers and staff. The highlight was a VIP night held for our customers from our loyalty program and media. The event was supported by suppliers with a mixologist preparing custom cocktails (Minimax Mai Tai) using Spiegelau drinkware. We also held a cocktail party to recognise long-serving staff members.”
The relaunch was not without its challenges as the team had to ensure there was minimal disruption during trading hours while finishing the renovation by the deadline.
“To manage this we had two shifts of work, with the second shift starting late afternoon and finishing in the early hours of the morning. It was also critical the timeline did not extend beyond the project plan as we needed to complete all works in between some major marketing events scheduled for that store.”
The layout of the store was ‘inspired’ by visits to major retailers in the UK and US, says McCormick. “We seek inspiration from all retailers, not just those within our category. Our fixturing has been designed to hold maximum stock but also merchandise coordinated ranges. We chose one of our supply partners, Australian-made Mud ceramics, to assist with the lighting over our counters, which create stunning anchor points within the store.”
She adds that customers have also commented on the ease of shopping within the store. “Due to the new fixturing we have been able to maintain the stock levels but merchandise in a more effective and space efficient manner. This has created more open space. We also used the opportunity to reconsider all the adjacencies within the store to create a more lifestyle approach to how customers shop. Our approach in everything we do is very customer centric.”
Indeed, the brand’s focus has always been to inspire customers and give them ideas for the home. Customers want to walk into a shopping environment and feel calm, relaxed, inspired. The store’s visual merchandising team spends a lot of time working with buying and marketing to design merchandise features in store to create this ambience.
“We have two seasonal plans each year (summer and winter) and our marketing plans and merchandise planning is in line with these. We work closely with our local suppliers to support international brands. Where possible we seek exclusivity to avoid competition and distribute these same lines though our other retail stores, General Trader and Your Habitat.
“We also have our own imported ranges that are a result of visiting all the major housewares fairs across the world. Our imports provide us with exclusivity and gross margin gains. We import from Italy, Portugal, Austria, Germany, India, Thailand, France, Poland and China.”
But nothing is more important than your staff—the people that are the face of your store, your brand and interact daily with the customers.
“You need people that have a shared passion for what you are trying to achieve in appealing to the customers’ needs and who understand and operate with the brand values at all times―that’s what makes a successful store.”