For all intents and purposes, retail strategy is an oxymoron. Most marketers view retail as a tactic, not a strategy. They see it as a function of sales, not marketing. But those who understand the potential of a “retail strategy” to make or break a brand have a real edge over those who don’t.
Take for instance, Under Armour. A recent story about the brand’s amazing success by David Coleman in the New York Times (8/7/08) goes into great detail about its carefully cultivated, high-testosterone image and how that image plays out on in its advertising.
But buried deep in the article is the insight that Under Armour’s success is in no small part because of its deft retail strategy: “For years it has largely restricted sales to sporting goods stores, military-base exchanges and sports- and military-oriented outlets.”
Using retail strategically to bolster its brand image is at least part of the reason why Under Armour has logged “$314 million in sales for the first half of 2008, a jump of nearly $70 million over the first half of 2007.”
Tupperware is a very different example of the importance of understanding retail as part of the brand strategy. As documented in a new book called Tupperware Unsealed, Tupperware was invented by a guy named Earl Tupper, who was a brilliant inventor but knew nothing about how to market his invention.
So he did the obvious thing and tried to get his product into stores. But it didn’t sell. Why? Because shoppers had no idea what Tupperware was. It was a new product that required explanation. It was a woman named Brownie Wise who came up with the idea of demonstrating Tupperware at parties (she actually got the idea from Stanley Home Products, which was already doing the same thing).
Eventually, Tupperware stopped selling at retail altogether and Ed sold the company for $16 million in 1958.
So, sometimes retail should be part of the brand strategy and sometimes it shouldn’t. But as both Under Armour and Tupperware prove, a brand’s success demands a retail strategy.