Breaking down the concept of retail

Breaking down the concept of retail

Posted by Jeroen de Wal on

nounretailplural nounretails
the sale of goods to the public in relatively small quantities for use or consumption rather than for resale.
"the retail trade"
  1. being sold by retail or at a retail price.
    "it is not yet available retail"
verbretail3rd person presentretailspast tenseretailedpast participleretailedgerund or present participleretailing
  1. 1.
    sell (goods) to the public by retail.
    "the difficulties in retailing the new products"
    • (of goods) be sold by retail for (a specified price).
      "the product retails for around £20"
  2. 2.
    relate or repeat (a story) in detail.
    "his inimitable way of retailing a diverting anecdote"
late Middle English: from an Anglo-Norman French use of Old French retaille ‘a piece cut off’, from retaillier, from re- (expressing intensive force) + tailler ‘to cut’.


No, this dictionary definition does not explain it all.

In this day and age, we tend to have a very straightforward view on retail. Person A wants Product B which is sold by Person C. Person C has either a physical or online store where Product B is sold to Person A. 
Done deal.
Yet, for some of us it works different. By choice. To create a different retail experience. 
I've been in the fashion retail industry for 20+ years, having worked for local business owners up to major global players. I've seen all sides of the industry, from the makers to the marketing to the salesperson. Seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Trying to understand every tiny little aspect of this industry, which is not as easy and straightforward as it looks.
Since 2019 I've been operating my own space, Store Du Nord, where I curate a selection of garments made by small-scale studios, independent makers and decades-old reputed brands.
Dealing with the cards that've been given, both the highs and the lows, the journey is a never-ending process in which each choice made has a ripple effect.
Now, I would like to share my thoughts and views on the concept of retail and how I experience it and how I navigate through it, with a bit of explanation along the way.

Making choices

Much of the concept of retail bottles down to this: making choices.

When I started out in 2019, I made choices based on my experience at that time and combined it with my vision & goals. The challenging thing with fashion is, as with pretty much everything in life, that you never know the future and can only guess.
Buying collections for a specific season starts 8-9 months in advance. In June you start buying for next Spring, in January you start buying for next Autumn. You work with the info you got, mix a bit of your gut feeling with it and you start making choices.

Bam! Something terrible in the world happens. Either financially, in politics or worse. Something out of your control will affect how you run your business. You can't make changes to your previous buying decisions so you'll have to roll with the punches. As said, the cards have been dealt. You act upon it, time and time again, and navigate your way through. There will always be a path that'll lead you upwards again. That path is a choice you get to make.

So, fast-forward in navigating through a lot of the bullshit that's happening in this world we live in, we get a nice bit of something to reflect on.

Making it through hard times is grateful and rewarding. You keep making choices, perhaps a bit more cautious, and it allows you to build your brand and reputation. People see you. Get to know you. Appreciate you. Regardless if it fits their own persona. 

Conveying a message to the outer world, sharing your values and beliefs. It will resonate with those who believe what you believe in. That is what I am trying to do day in, day out. 
Retail, at least for me, is not about how many people buy your product. It is about how many people you can inspire to believe in your journey. To understand that there is another side to all of this. They might not buy your product but you will probably inspire them to at least buy better. 
In the long run, this process of broadcasting your message and working relentlessly to be seen will return many good things to you.
That is what I believe in.

It does, however, not always come easy or might get lost in translation.

Validating choices

There is a popular saying in retail that when you start playing the discount game, you are entering a "rat race to the bottom". You will never win.
The same applies for when you feel you have to start validating your choices.

In the past few seasons, Store Du Nord has evolved into a more specific platform with unique makers and special made garments. This was not born out of a desire to become "more niche", but born out of a love to show that beauty and quality craft still exists.

I enjoy discovering very unique makers that have a level of craftsmanship that's very hard to find. Whether they use centuries-old techniques or hi-tech innovation, it needs to spark my inner being. Getting this urge to show the skill of this person, telling their story and inspire you as a consumer. That's what I aim for when looking for interesting makers to work with.

More recently, I hear people arguing that my store has become more expensive. It's something that makes me think hard about the process I'm in with Store Du Nord. Receiving critique, good or bad, is always something that should make you think. I can join the discussion and argue that we, on average, have actually not gotten more expensive the past 2 years but we did add a few unique makers that might have tipped the scale a bit.

I hear you.

So instead of arguing, debating, discussing, validating, it is better to take a moment and understand what's really the issue.

We need to rediscover the balance.

Me, as a business owner and storyteller. You as a consumer. The industry as a whole.

Trying to validate choices can turn into a dangerous discussion in which you lose more than you gain.
A game of "is not, is not, is not!!"

My concept of retail

Trying to define how I do what I do is difficult to explain in words as most of my decisions are based on my gut. The handle of a fabric, values of a maker that resonate with me as a retailer, reading between the lines, imagining garments on people.

All these tiny details that gel together and form a retail space called Store Du Nord.

My concept exists thanks to you, as a believer in my journey, and them as a maker of timeless quality. A concept that allows me to share the story of all of those involved. 

In order for you to understand the choices, you need to know the process behind the choices.

That is the very simple concept of how I do retail. 

It fits you, or it doesn't.

Together we evolve.

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