How Aurora Fashions is using Marketing Week’s advice to repair cracks in retail strategy

  • Explore our five-step guide to retail survival, here
  • See how Morrisons is trying a new approach as an educator, here

Mike Shearwood, chief executive, Aurora Fashions, which owns Oasis, Warehouse, Coast and Karen Millen

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Open an outlet

Mike Shearwood (MS): We have outlet stores in Bicester Village (Karen Millen and Coast), Las Rozas near Madrid (Karen Millen) and Maasmechelen near Brussels (Karen Millen). We also have outlets at McArthurGlen sites, which have been performing well. The consumer is going to those centres for great value for money, which enables us to move stock in season through a different channel.

We mainly sell a consolidation of fragmented best-selling stock from around the business. When you allocate the stores with stock, you may end up with one size of one dress left. It may be a best-seller but you can’t merchandise it because it detracts from the rest of the offer. As a result, we consolidate that product into the outlet stores so they have a full size range or colour range and give a credible offer at an advantageous price.

Find a new territory

MS: We have three growth strategies – invest in the portfolio and technology for building it; drive our multichannel business; and drive our international business.

We are now in 48 countries and are expanding quite aggressively. We will have four new stores in Latin America this year in addition to launching own-language websites abroad and tabulated sites, where, for example, someone going to the Warehouse brand site could also access the Oasis site. People can take a shopping basket across those different sites, so you can use one basket to make many purchases from multiple sites. We will be offering other British retailers the opportunity to be tabulated on our sites. They will be UK apparel retailers who would like to have an online international capability but don’t have the technology or the online platform to do it. It gives the consumer more choice and they will be able to buy through one basket.

Become an educator

MS: We have a strong training culture within the group. We have quite a large learning and development department and are one of the major supporters of the specialist retail educator Oxford Summer School. This gives people a personal boost to their development and their motivation levels are huge, so we see it as a worthwhile investment. We are sending 15 people on it this year at [a cost of £2,010 per person].

Last year’s group delivered a new intranet system, which we have rolled out to all the group’s stores.

Manage by walking about

MS: We spend at least one day a week in-store, although sometimes it’s a whole week. It is very easy for the senior leaders of a company to come up with great ideas and push them down into the business. But they have a responsibility to make sure things are delivered the right way at the sharp end.

Something could have been poorly explained by me or members of my senior team, executed badly or maybe it could have been a stupid idea and we didn’t check it first. So we always go and talk to the teams in stores. We try and create an atmosphere where people can speak their mind and the management expects challenges from store managers.

Embrace the virtual high street

MS: In the next few of weeks, people will be able to order online for delivery to any store, to a home or order in-store for picking up in the same shop. We will be making 100% of our inventory available at any one time. If someone is ordering online and that product isn’t in the distribution centre but is in an overseas store, we will be making that product available. We will be able to put a note in the package saying: “We searched hard for this item and it’s come from our New York store”.

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