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July 19, 2015

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Cooking up success in retail sector

READ, learn and have fun seems to be the motto of John Hoerner. For “Recipes For Retailers,” the title of his guide on how to find success in retail, is not just a metaphor — the book actually contains some of Hoerner’s favorite recipes for readers who, like him, enjoy cooking.

The 76-year-old American-born retail guru says: “There are many similarities between good retailing and good cooking. Ingredients, quality of ingredients, proportions, timing, presentation, special qualities that make it different and appealing... It’s more an art form than an exact science!”

In addition to the actual recipes printed at the end of the book, “Recipes For Retailers” seeks to provide the ingredients for retail success in its eight chapters, each addressing a key issue, such as customers, stores, marketing, strategy and people.

It begins with the person who is the boss; the customer.

“Rule No.1 says: When you get it right for customers, almost everything else works… When you don’t get it right for customers, almost nothing else works!”

And it ends with people who make it right. “Good people are best motivated when they take full responsibility for their area — whatever that may be — this works at all levels of the business.”

In 1987, Hoerner moved to Britain after being recruited by the Burton Group to run its Debenhams stores. He went on to run the Arcadia Group with 2,500 UK outlets, was chairman of the British Fashion Council and chief executive of Tesco clothing in the UK and Central Europe.

With 56 years of experience in the retail business, he has strong opinions. Customer loyalty, Hoerner claims, is a myth. What does exist is “familiarity” and “habit,” he says. As long as customers are satisfied, they keep coming.

Same essential rules

In our digital age, people no longer shop as their parents or grandparents did. However, the same essential rules still apply, says Hoerner.

How to attract more customers; how to create and maintain good relations with the public; how to communicate effectively with the local community; and how to evaluate standards of investment return. These are as true today as they ever were, he says.

“This is all about being good and enjoying life. Good people means good business, whether it is online or offline,” Hoerner said at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai recently.

“Recipes For Retailers” is available both in English and Chinese.


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