Just a normal week then; Tesco abandoning China, Greggs complaining about the British weather – too hot again, and John Lewis sales down 43% (oh, ok that was their Westfield Stratford store only) .
But just when I thought it couldn’t get any odder up popped two brand extensions – Laura Ashley have opened a hotel and Easyjet (well Sir Stelios) are going to open supermarkets.
Now I don’t know about you, but those words simply conjure up immediate images. You can imagine the Laura Ashley hotel; all floral prints and design in a classic English style. Great at some occasions, but just so wrong at others. And the Easyjst orange supermarket, an assault on the eyes and other senses. I defy you not be imagining them right now.
But it is interesting that “Laura Ashley hotel” and “Easyjet supermarket” do conjure up images so readily and that it is likely those images are pretty much shared. After all that is why they are using the brand in these ventures.
And in a sort of “If Carlsberg…. ” moment it got me thinking about what other companies might stroll into the retail arena. I did think about the Ryanair superstore. The one where you pay to queue outside and then have to pay both to rent a basket and trolley and then to be checked out of the store. And the one where you enter the shop in Stirling and leave it in Falkirk – time and location travel and they get you close enough to where you want to be. And after the news this week, it’s the sort of store where they don’t give you change but instead invite you to do the lottery with the change they don’t have. It’s not that far fetched really; I think I saw a prototype in Poland in the early 1980s.
In a more serious vein though I does point up what my colleague John Dawson has argued is a difference between format and formula. The supermarket is the format, but how different companies adapt the format to make their formula is what grabs customers attention for good or bad. Within that the role of the brand is vital in both signposting and delivering/reinforcing the formula.
Which is why I am looking forward at some time in the future to going to Watford – which is not a statement I though I would ever make. But with the new Tesco concept hypermarket being opened there, it may be worth a visit. This is Tesco trying to see what they can do with a format (the hypermarket) by playing with the formula (Extra). In Watford they are using the “spare” space to house a Giraffe Restaurant, a Harris & Hoole coffee outlet, Euphorium bakery as well as updating layouts of existing departments. It will be interesting to see what makes it into the mainline Tesco Extra in due course.
If you can’t get to Watford, or can’t get there yet, then you can see inside the store via Google Street View, which is hopefully the forerunner of many other such examples of using this approach. A neat way of generating interest in a store and providing teaching materials for my students – what’s not to like?