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"The business of the amateur musician is music. The business of the professional musician is business."  -- Robert Fripp, English guitarist, composer and record producer

 

I've been looking rather closely at L'Occitane lately. They are sprouting up all over the place like fungus during a rainy season. Their visual merchandising is the best in the industry. Here's their shop front at Bangsar Village.

 

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Body Shop is no comparison, you will agree.

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L'Occitane's marketing is incredible. Do they even have a weak spot? I can detect none, except perhaps a strong propensity to exaggerate. Take, for instance, their product names.

 

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Anyone who names their face cream "Immortelle" cannot be a shy marketeer. (It turns out that's the French name for a species of flowers, whose extract is used in the cream.) Not only that, they call the cream "Precious cream".

 

But that's not enough. For even fatter margins, they have a choice of "Very Precious Cream".

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Any reasonable person would think that would be the top-of-the-line, the apex. Very precious cream. But L'Occitane has another card up its sleeves.

 

How about divine cream?

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It's only with uncharacteristic self-restraint that they did not call it Creme Jesus.

 

Talking about L'Occitane's self-restraint: They put up a huge poster on the outside wall of 1U. I took this pic a few hours ago.

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It's huge, I think the largest permitted before you have to start greasing MPPJ. But this being L'Occitane, one is not enough. Why not make that two huge posters?

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Two identical posters in maximal size, luminously lighted along one of the busiest roads in the country.

 

But this is the company that introduced the Immortelle cream, no make that the Immortelle Crème Tres Précieuse. So of course it would be three posters.

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By now some of you are thinking this is ridiculous. Have we not eyes? Exactly. L'Occitane doesn't think you have eyes. Which is why they put up four identical posters.

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In case you think this orgy of excess has reached its pinnacle, think again. This is the company that introduced the Creme Divine, a.k.a. the Jesus cream. So make that five posters.

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And who do you think presides over this improbable overnight success of a company? A young, dynamic exec formerly from P&G maybe? Or maybe someone from Danone?

 

Turns out he's like the German version of Ingvar Kamprad. A most improbable CEO for such a company.

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There is a new trend in retailing I've noticed. More and more, I read on forums that people "return" things they've bought. The way I grew up to understand the nature of a purchase, once money has exchanged hands, the product is yours. You can't return it. But online retailers like Amazon has a no questions asked return policy, and this has created purchase behaviours never seen before.

 

1. There are those who, when they have narrowed their purchase decision down to two or three competing models, would purchase all three, try them out at home for several days, then return the ones they do not want to keep.

 

2. Many would buy a product they fancy just to play with it then return it.

 

3. Product reviewers (who normally write for their websites) would purchase every new model that comes out for reviewing then return them.

 

Amazingly, Amazon would accept all the returns and do a full refund. If you go on ebay, you see where all these "open box" products end up.

 

It's quite a strange business model. I wonder if it will go on.

 

When I was younger, you either bought new or second hand. Now there is a third category: "open box".

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Typing on the goddamned ipad again. Some fast n frugal observations about "deep" businesses.

 

There is a camera shop in lowyat that still sells the Sony A55 new. This is a four- year old model. It was also the only shop that stocked the M mount adapter, and at an ebay-competitive price too. Not many camera shops are like this. Many are just order-taking outfits that doesn't seem to stock anything. Or they sell only the current hot models, the ones that turn over quickly. It's like the Aldi model in Germany, a supermarket chain that sells only the frequently needed goods.

 

Then there are the "deep" businesses, like the camera shop that has ready stock of even obsolete models and exotic stuff like lens adapters. Or like Rubinacci, which offers all the contemporary books, but also has it's own stock of vintage fabrics stretching back in time. Rubinacci will also make exotic stuff like period-style pockets etc.

 

Rubinacci is deep. So is Charvet, etc.

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Makes sense for a camera shop to have the most recent models in stock or ready to be ordered I guess. As stock obselescence will come into play quite quickly for electronic retailers.

 

It doesn't make for a very interesting store, but understandable from a working capital pov (ie less money tied in slow moving stock is good). Its more expensive to have a specialty camera store which has stock from the 90s. Not sure about this, but validity periods for warranties and such might also be an issue if you hold onto goods for too long.

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How to guarantee your brand will never, ever be distributed by anyone except yourself: Have a wholesale price that is identical to your retail price.

 

Two tiemakers have said this to me. No wonder nobody except themselves are selling their ties.

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There are not many menswear brands that grow big through the internet. Retail distribution is still massively important and relevant. Whatever the case, brands that were launched on the internet always look at retail distribution as a vast expanse of untapped demand. But the two tiemakers who approached me to see if I know of retail opportunities for their brands told me with a straight face that their wholesale price is whatever retail price they have on their webshop. I still find this massively lacking in business sense.

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