M&S is S-Group’s shortcut to international retail knowledge

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Hello Helsinki, London is here.

That’s the initial message from Marks & Spencer when entering Scandinavia again today.

But it’s not just a London-touch for the S-Group, it’s a key to knowledge about modern international retail. And a shortcut in reforming the Finnish department store.

”We are open for more partnerships to develop ourselves”, says Arttu Laine, Executive Vice President

It’s been busy times, as usual when a completely new store is about to open. The Marks & Spencer store manager at Sokos in Helsinki, Marja-Liisa Neuvonen, says she had serious doubts just a day before. But with all the color coordinated textiles on right places, everything seems to be in order for the VIP-event in the evening and the official opening on Thursday.

”You can’t see everything we’ve thought of. There are so many details here”, she says.

Marks & Spencer will now leave their fat design manual with the S-Group and go home and wait for the daily reports the Finnish management will send. It’s the general international concept that is introduced, waiting to see how Finnish consumers react to it.

Well, they will soon be back for two more openings – and some unannounced visits  according to international manager Costas Antimissaris.

“This is a new approach, but very representative for this format, since we’ve literally implemented one store in another. But maintained our identity!  So we unify our strengths.”

”We will expand to other concepts too, but for now this is our priority”, says Costas Antimissaris.

Laura Ruuskanen with 30 years of experience from the S-Group, is the chain director.

”It’s very inspiring to learn new things after allt this years”, she says.

Is this a learning process for the whole s-group?

”I think it is. Yes.”

She says the most significant manual is about the visual merchandising. Such as how many pieces there can be on one rail.

“It’s very strict. We have to do measures several times a day to be sure we apply to their standards. We are willing to measure ourselves on all standards to keep the brand on the right level.”

”According to this project, we have not known what we’ve implemented before. We haven’t had so many rules, and even those we’ve had were not so strict. Of course we’ve measured our performance, but not in this way. So it has been a learning curve for me as well”, Laura Ruuskanen says.

The biggest learning might come with the multichannel thinking, as Marks & Spencer is voted best multichannel offer in England by the consumers.

But the e-commerce will not be handled by Finland until 2016 as the S-Group wants to set the bricks & mortar part first. This also means that Marks & Spencer’s successful multichannel approach will have to wait and marksandspencer.fi will only be a marketing site. Costas Antimissaris says it is up to each franchiser to adapt the e-commerce on their local market.

And the food offer is very limited in the flagship store, due to space limitations at Sokos, but will be extended in the coming stores. A decision by the S-Group.

The first time with Marks & Spencer in Finland will therefore be with a traditional department store approach.

”We will have a learning process with Marks & Spencer when it comes to multichannel. But the traditional department store is still an important part of our offer – so it’s not so black and white. And when we talk to the directors from Marks & Spencer they have the same view”, says Arttu Laine, executive Vice President at the S-Group.

”We are open for more partnerships to develop ourselves. You don’t have to do it yourself if you know your customers’ needs”, he adds.