Dirk Spence had a feeling that “something wasn’t quite right” at Howards Storage World (HSW).
“Our logo had quite a masculine feel with the red type, the man and the baskets,” he explained to My Business.
“Red gives a discount feel and our customer base and target market is women over 25. 13 years ago when we started out, the look was appropriate. But the retail world is moving fast and we had a general feeling of 'is this appropriate?'”
That feeling was strong enough that Spence, founder and CEO of Howards Storage World, commissioned a focus group to learn how the public perceives the franchise group, its sixty plus Australian stores and franchisees in Europe, New Zealand and Asia.
Results from the focus group suggested a refresh was in order and Spence set the company’s internal marketing teams to the task. Franchisees were also involved: Howards operates a Marketing Advisory Group comprised of franchisees from each State. This group worked alongside the marketing, merchandising and other teams inside Howards to devise options for a new look.
The group kept the job in house, as Spence was wary of the cost of outsourced consultants and also feels that while the perspective they bring can be valuable, it may not be the right perspective.
“Do they know your business as well as you?” he asked.
The changes to HSW’s image include what the company calls a “curvy logo and softer colour scheme that acknowledges the brand’s predominantly female shopper” plus a new slogan - ‘simply organised’ - that Spence said will mean “Customers understand we are not just a home wares business. We want to be recognised as providing storage and organisational solutions and become the organisational experts.”
To achieve that goal, Spence said the revamp went beyond just look and feel.
“It’s a new concept in store,” he says, with a new 'organisation station' where staff can show customers how products work a centrepiece of the new layout.
All of the concepts involved were tested with focus groups, workshopped in-house and shared with franchisees over a two year period before the first store in the new livery was launched in October 2010. But the company won’t immediately bring the new look to all stores, citing the cost of the refit even though the new look is cheaper to install than Howards’ old livery. But as stores are required to refresh their premises, they will adopt the new look.
For the next few years, the group will therefore mix its two visual identities. All documentation now carries the new look, but stores will keep their old fitout until landlords or other reasons compel them to upgrade.
Spence now feels the group is poised for growth.
“You don’t do this because you want to do it. You do it because it is the right thing for the business. The outcome we expect is better sales and that will come because the whole shopping environment for our customers will be better.”