4 retailers making local connections in international markets

Check out the official recap for photos, videos, articles, presentations and more from Retail’s BIG Show 2017 .

Check out the official recap for photos, videos, articles, presentations and more from Retail’s BIG Show 2017 .

Maintaining brand identity is essential to customer loyalty. Retail executives from Australian, Brazilian and British brands offer a preview of their global retailing sessions at Retail’s BIG Show 2017 and explain why their companies’ identities must remain flexible when entering new markets.

Rooted at home, growing abroad
“Our British heritage is intrinsic to Hobbs,” says Meg Lustman, CEO of the women’s fashion retailer. “Our strapline of ‘Understated British Style’ tells consumers about design, quality, attention to detail. This needs to be dialed up in new markets. We can’t rely on the familiarity we have at home.”

Artur Grynbaum, CEO of Brazilian cosmetic and fragrance company Boticario Group, notes that a strong branding strategy is a priority for telling people who you are and what you stand for as a company.

“Everything we do is about our brand in the U.K.,” says Erika Serow, president and U.S. CEO of activewear retailer Sweaty Betty. “Customers absolutely love products that reflect our ‘London Cool’ aesthetics.”

The same is true for T2 Tea, an Australia-based online retailer. “We’re very proud of our roots and love to tell the story of what we stand for,” International Director Darren Williams says. “We have a unique global service program called ‘LEAF’ and we need our teams to ensure that T2 and our service experience fits the locality.”

“I don’t believe in global retail. I believe in global brands. Old-fashioned retail is always local. Digital is local and bricks-and-mortar is really local.”

Erica Serow
President and U.S. CEO, Sweaty Betty

Connecting with local communities
Williams says T2 connects with local communities in a number of ways. “We have tea society members we invite to special preview events. We also use Twitter for each store to advertise local events.”

For Sweaty Betty, the trick was melding its British roots with going to market the American way. “Our motto is: ‘Same where we can be and different where we have to be,’ in terms of brand awareness and reach,” Serow says. “The United States is not one market. There are clear differences between L.A. and New York, and we need to invest in customers whether they’re in West Hollywood or New York.”

The process of understanding local consumers begins when stores open, according to Grynbaum. “A main point of connection is between our strategy and consumer behavior at the time of purchase. For example, Brazilians exhibit different buying behaviors and channel preferences from region to region. What help they want from our consultants and questions about products are also our main concern when entering new markets.”

Hobbs’ preferred method of entry is through spaces belonging to others, such as department stores or online marketplaces. “It’s an ideal opportunity to leverage and understand the needs of local communities and the best way to align local requirements with our brand strategies,” Lustman says.

Speakers headshots
Clockwise from top left: Erika Serow, Darren Williams, Meg Lustman, Artur Grynbaum

Global retailing

Learning and adapting to new markets
Lustman says Hobbs encountered some unexpected hurdles when taking the British fashion brand into China. “The approach to modesty combined with different body shapes led to sharp differences in how women wear their clothes. It wasn’t enough to just offer smaller sizes. We found that women wore their trousers tighter and their tops looser, showing less cleavage.”

Expansion into the United States also held a few surprises for T2 Tea. “We learned how much U.S. consumers love iced tea and matcha. And our vegetable teas have also been a smash — well ahead of performance in the United Kingdom,” Williams says. Grynbaum says the key is adaptability and learning. “All Brazilians are very concerned about special dates like birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s Day. Even in new markets where certain moments are essentially the same, they can happen in different ways. That’s why adapting is so important.”

Serow found that out when Sweaty Betty entered the United States. “In the U.K., we were the only game in town for 18 years. We had 100 percent brand awareness and didn’t have to explain ourselves to anyone, but in the United States we were a startup. We needed to tell people who we were, where we came from and why Sweaty Betty was a breakthrough — all of it steeped in British humor. We’re trying to do in the United States in four years what took nearly two decades in the U.K.”

Learn how to grow a domestic brand in international markets and connect global brands with local communities: Register to attend Retail’s BIG Show in New York.