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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Bookshop – Retail Books


My sister's a barista, John Simmons Cyan Jan 2005
OK this is a brandalogue of Starbucks from its inception to its powerhouse today. Since I bought it in Starbucks as you may imagine it is suitably deferential. Did you know that some people have accused Starbucks of carpet bombing cities putting its sites so close together that they put mom and pop cafes out of business. What a terrible accusation - we're a caring company look even our part time staff are on the health program. Author John Simmons is ex Interbrand so should be able to put in a barb or two but I guess you don't bite the hand :-) The growth and success of Starbucks is undoubtedly a phenomenon and it was accomplished through reinventing a category and through highly disciplined branding which still adapts to local environments - look out for my pics of a Starbucks outlet in Jeddah on my blog. But really the ethical issues need to be addressed more directly - the critics may be a wide of the mark and big isn't necessarily bad but bigness means you don't always notice where you are putting your feet. Simmons is good at articulating the core issues where Scott Bedbury made such a difference in boiling (or should that be brewing) the brand down to it's essence. And it's a quick read too.
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Shopped, Joanna Blythman Fourth Estate May 2004
Conspiracy theories and the supermarkets. What is interesting is not just the bad luck that means two exposes of wicked British supermarketing hit the shelves in the same month. No what is interesting is that these are the latest in a number of books slagging off supermarkets. And I am expecting more. Joanna Blythman is a foodie journalist and is determined to expose your local supermarket for the embodiment of evil it is. UK supermarkets destroy biodiversity, have destroyed UK agriculture, wiped out independent shops, decuimated town centres, exploit their employees, suppliers and casual workers, sell fruit and veg that looks cloned and tastes rubbish. And what they really want to do is to get us to eat their processed foods and ready meals so we die of obesity. I have to declare an interest here I've worked for a grocery multiple 3 times in the last year but really this is hysterical rabble rousing stuff. Long on rhetoric short on fact. More irritating is that there is no attempt to understand the systemic forces which make supermarkets the way they are- a supermarket is a piece of technology designed to deliver standard foodstuffs at competitive prices. Which on the whole they do rather well. The most interesting part of the book was a detailed listing of the 'bunce' which stores wring out of suppliers - as recorded by the Competition Commission in 2000 - with the offending supermarkets listed. The ensuing code of practice turned out to be toothless without a single complaint made against a supermarket in the first year. All this demonstrates is that the concentration of power represented by supermarkets is now so great that even governments are largely powerless to do anything about it. But it also suggested to me that the negative impact is a political issue rather than a commercial one. If this book and others like it have a cumulative effect I would predict that supermarkets are going to have to deal with a consumer backlash - much as the banks have done and fast food outlets have found to their cost. It doesn't necessarily mean that people use them much less but that they will come to be seen as poor citizens actively working against the interests of the community. But in summary I wasn't particular convinced by this foodie tirade - I'm not convinced that the so called specialist the supermarkets replaced were as good as the author makes out. The book shows all the hallmarks of having been written in a library. Which is why I prefer Not on the label.
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Not on the label, Felicity Lawrence May 2004 Penguin
Another attack on supermarkets this one much better. And the difference is that Felicity Lawrence goes into the field to research her subject matter. And shows another side to Britain - casual workers often illegal immigrants being bussed from farm to farm and processing centre to processing centre by gangmasters. And the product horror stories: Salad washed in chlorine many times stronger than the local swimming pool. Chicken portions injected with water and beef and pork proteins to give it more body. If there are chemicals in your food it's to stop the food making you sick in the first place! This is the food industry - we don't live in Provence - and I bet in Provence they do the same. Felicity Lawrence is guilty like Blythman of looking at the world through Elizabeth David spectacles - though it turns out that once off the farm the distinctions between freerange, organic and fair trade produce become distinctly dubious, But her book focuses on the societal implications of supermarketing - in the end how do you feel about how your food is made and brought to you? Is this civilisation as we know it? It certainly is at odds with the world copywriters are portraying. Of the two I would recommend this one. But in the end this tirade also began to pall. It's too one sided. One thought though - if our food chain is being sustained by an army of illegal immigrants then why are the security forces busy watching for bombs at airports? Surely a biological attack through our supermarkets is more achievable, would be much more lethal and more difficult to prevent? Must write to my MP..
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The Call of the Mall, Paco Underhill 1999 Orion Business Books
Another title by Paco Underhill the "retail anthropologist". As you might expect this is US biassed though there are a number of examples given of malls outside of the US and Paco Underhill has also worked for Bluewater in Kent. This is an easy and very entertaining read - shades of Bill Bryson in the shopping centre! I wish there were more books out there like this. Unlike his last book which went into a lot of detail about the observational techniques he uses - this is quite simply a wander round a mall with a companion - who may be a customer or a retail specialist - each chapter focussing on a different category or customer group. What you get is an overview of the cultural factors which have shaped and contiue to shape mall shopping - which is much more interesting and thought provoking than conventional business texts. I'd like to commission another couple - one for the households with children and one about how people consumer media these days. If you work on retail business this will give you LOADS of ideas.
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Scoring Points, Clive Humby & Terry Hunt with Tim Phillips 2003 Kogan Page
review to follow soon
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Hug your customers, Jack Mitchell 2003 Hyperion
John Ayton of Links of London got me to read this one in connection with a project. This is one of that genre of enthusiastic customer service books which can get right to the issue or get right up your nose. This one has all the trappings of the former but I can confidently report falls into the latter category. Mitchells is a family run business which runs 2 clothing stores which between them turn over $65 million a year. No really and one of the stores is in their home town. And its all down to hugging your customers. Now before you stampede for the exits I'd point out that the store was started in 1958 so has a 45 year track record, it is still a family owned and run business. So this isn't one of those slick formula books. This lot have had time to work out a system of customer service. This is more than theory and a couple of boom years. Also the book hasn't been dashed off. It is laid out with sections on how to motivate staff, IT support, coping with peak times, ROI calculations and coping with mistakes. Every section has a precis of the main points. Its an easy read with lots of anecdotes and examples of over the top customer care. The best customer service book I have read since The Richer Way which you will also find in the Retail section of the bookshop. Just don't get too upset when the author "hugs" (thanks) his brother, his brothers sons, his mom, his dad...
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Store Wars The battle for Mindspace and Shelfspace, J Corstjens M Corstjens 1995 Wiley
A very lucid introduction to the relationships between FMCG brands, retail brands and retailers. This book has been out for a while so takes no account of the internet, and little account of loyalty cards and so called new marketing. But that isn't a weakness. The weapons may be changing but the battle lines haven't wavered. Category management the most recent raprochement, is now looking a lot more flawed than when the book was written. I would go as far as to say that every planner working on FMCG or retail ought to read this book if only for a refresher to ensure you're as grounded as you need to be.
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The Richer Way, Julian Richer 1995 Emap
Terrific book and an easy read. Just focus on customer satisfaction and stand back and watch the stampede. This guy bonuses his staff for keeping customers happy. Every month the staff in the store who do this best get to borrow the Bentley. Superb.
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Why we buy, Paco Underhill 1999 Orion Business Books
I really enjoyed this. I once proved to M&S how long it took them to sell a bottle of wine by videoing customer using the security cameras. Paco Underhill has built a career and a whole company devoted to doing this kind of behavioural research. Love it. Now out in paperback I believe.
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