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Going global – protecting your retail brand in new markets

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It’s many decades since retailers realised that their brand is far more than just their company name or logo. Academics and lawyers have since written entire books cataloguing all the elements that go into making a good brand.

Suffice to say that for global retailers, their brand is often their most valuable asset. It’s what sets them apart from their rivals and embodies their appeal to customers.

Trademarks and intellectual property law offer the retailer a degree of legal protection of their brand, but consumers judge the retailer – and its brand – every time they come into contact with it. Their perception of the brand is shaped every time they walk into a physical store, visit the retailer’s website, or read about it in the media.

Bricks and mortar is just the start

As a global programme manager, Turner & Townsend has helped a range of international retailers – from supermarkets to car manufacturers – roll out capital investment programmes around the world.

There was a time when the “brand identity” of a programme to build, say, a dozen new supermarket stores in a new market, would have focused almost exclusively on the customer-facing elements. As the physical embodiment of the brand, the look and feel of the physical stores are crucial to reinforcing customers’ perceptions. But while the layout of the aisles, quality of the fittings and signage and so on are still important, these days we help our clients to build and reinforce their brand in many other ways too.

With consumers liable to judge a retailer not just on the completed stores, but on the way they are announced and built, every stage in the capital investment programme can have a potential impact on the brand.

This means that the best store-building programmes will ensure not just high quality work, but will also manage multiple stakeholder requirements, minimise operational disruption and harmonise approaches to risk management, health and safety, and sustainability performance.

Start a PMO PDQ*

A good place to start is with the creation of a Programme Management Office (PMO). A well-run PMO will give the retailer a holistic view of the investment programme; promoting best practice that will in turn create efficiencies, improve control, effectively manage risk and enhance communications. Crucially, it can be an effective tool in aligning the capital investment programme with the business’s brand strategy.

It is vital that the management and delivery of each individual project should also support the business’s brand values in sustainability, procurement, health and safety, and ethics.

This should be balanced with an understanding of local markets and allow for flexibility, so that the programmes delivered are also fit for purpose, sympathetic to the local market and meet business case requirements.

Keeping control of the supply chain

Inevitably, moving into a new market will require the retailer to recruit local suppliers. But how can it be sure that every level of its supply chain operates to its own standards? How can you drive brand consistency through a global supply chain? Health and safety standards offer an interesting case in point. They tend to be governed by local legislation and can vary widely from market to market. Successful global retailers will often adhere to the standards of their home country, even in markets where local rules are less stringent.

For example, one retailer that Turner & Townsend is supporting has introduced universally high standards of health and safety training, in a wide variety of local languages, across all regions.

By upholding higher health and safety standards than those strictly required, it has marked itself out as a company that cares deeply about the safety and welfare of those who work with them; an approach which helps uphold its brand values of trust and fairness.

In retail, protecting your brand is key. A well-managed global capital investment programme presents an opportunity to not just to increase revenue, but also to add value to your brand, by improving both industry practices and the environment in the markets where you operate.

Brands are increasingly global. Every activity is scrutinised and it is all too easy to damage your brand. Leading retailers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of integrating brand strategy into their capital investment activities, helping them to enhance their brand and reputation as they move into new and competitive markets.

Published on Monday 19 May by Editorial Assistant
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