Veronique Eastham, Outset Cornwall
Learning how to visually market your products can seem like a mysterious art, but for retail businesses, getting it right is important.
Any retail business, online or offline, can fail or fly based on how attractive their product offering looks.
We speak to Outset Cornwall business advisor Veronique Eastham, who talks about her retail career experience and using visual merchandising. Veronique also shares some simple but practical tips on how to visually market your products, which you can easily implement to enhance your shopfront and attract customers.
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We hope you enjoy this episode. Get in touch for more information on how we can support your business start-up journey.
- Read the full transcript here
Welcome to the Outset Podcast, the business start-up podcast from Outset Cornwall, for support and inspiration to start, run and grow your business. Here’s your host Rich Gunton.
Rich Gunton (00:15):
Welcome to another edition of the Outset Podcast. And today we’re talking all things visual marketing and setting out your stall, and we’ve got one of Outset Cornwall’s very own business advisors, Veronique Eastham, joining us. Hello, welcome to the Outset Podcast.
Veronique Eastham (00:33):
Yeah. Good morning. Nice to be talking to you all about a subject that I absolutely love.
Rich Gunton (00:39):
And so tell us a little bit about you then you were originally from Paris, you’ve got a fantastic career. Do you want to just sort of give us an overview?
Veronique Eastham (00:47):
My background is really retail management. I had a couple of shops for many, many years; a large one in Truro and a smaller one in Falmouth selling fashion: ladies wear, children’s wear, men’s wear. And also I taught merchandising and buying at Truro College on a degree course on the fashion course, focusing on the business aspect of fashion rather than the creating aspect of it. I’m now working for Outset, helping our clients fulfilling their dreams really, and getting their business started and up and running.
Rich Gunton (01:27):
So it’s a, it’s a fantastic kind of, you know, position to be in to be able to, as you’ve done at the college and, and now with Outset, to sort of, you know, share that hands on experience, you know, you’ve, you’ve literally been there and, and done it with regards to your shop perhaps in, in, in Cornwall and in, in, in Truro. What was the journey there when, when did that start and, and how did you start that up?
Veronique Eastham (01:49):
The one in Truro was a well known global brand that I started working in as a manager in 1993. So a long time ago.
Rich Gunton (02:01):
Veronique Eastham (02:01):
And I sort of turned the shop around a little bit. And the owner of the business asked me whether I’d be interested in buying the business from them because all of these other shops were around London and the north. And this one was kind of stuck out on the limb a little bit and it was difficult for him to manage really. So I was interested in that and I knew that it was a, a, a good business that had huge potential still. And I knew that the figures were real. And I did some figures, put some figures together, did a business plan and cashflow forecast, and went to the bank basically. And in those days there were no such organization, as I said. So I wish that there had been, and to hold my hand and help me along with all the, the hoops that you have to jump through when you start up a business, basically bought the business off in. So I, I sort of developed that it was a good business. It had a good customer base, but I sort of increased the turnover and the profit on in the first year by 800%.
Rich Gunton (03:11):
Oh, wow. Wow.
Veronique Eastham (03:12):
So it was really, yeah, but I ended up with a very big tax bill.
Rich Gunton (03:16):
You, this, this profits make lots of money, pay big tax bills, <laugh>
Veronique Eastham (03:20):
It was a great business. And it went from strengths to strength. And so I had that as mine from 1996, then I opened another shop in Falmouth called Sisley, which is a sister company of Benetton, but more high end, more high fashion.
Rich Gunton (03:37):
Veronique Eastham (03:38):
And I had that for over 10 years. In 2009, I sold the shop in Truro to focus on the one in Falmouth and to have a bit of a life. Cause all I seemed to be doing was working.
Rich Gunton (03:54):
Veronique Eastham (03:54):
Yeah. Sort of built up that one as much as I had the other one, if you like, that’s meant my journey with those two. And then in 2013, I was diagnosed with a serious illness. So I had to close the shop. Basically. I couldn’t work at that point in time for about 18 months. I couldn’t work. I was pretty sick. Right. But here I am now I’m fine. And I sort of decided to impart what I know and what I can do to others and took the route of teaching and mentoring and empowering people. Like I tried to do in Outset with what I know coming from, as you said, a real base, a real knowledge that I haven’t learned in a book that I have actually experienced and made mistakes and did some things that I shouldn’t have done. And yet did things that I did do, you know, that were good. That worked for me. So I, I helped people with all of that.
Rich Gunton (04:50):
I think that’s the, the beauty of, of, well, of experience, isn’t it, you know, we all make mistakes. Sometimes they’re, there’s small ones, sometimes they’re big ones, you know, and we learn from those mistakes don’t we, and I think, you know, it’s, it’s fantastic that there’s people like yourself that come out of, you know, established careers for whatever reason, and then move into a, a mentoring, coaching, teaching role, whatever you want to, you know, label it, to be able to help the, either the next generation of, of entrepreneurs and retail entrepreneurs. And, or just, you know, sort of hold the hand of someone who’s frankly just wanted to set up a, a fairly small, maybe parttime home based business as, as well. You know, and it’s interesting when you say about obviously Bennetton, United Colors of, of Bennetton. I mean a great global brand and also a, a pretty visual brand as well, which obviously works well for our, our topics of day with visual marketing. And I, I can’t remember the chap’s name, but I do remember reading the, the book about the guy that set it up. And I think he started off with like bike hire and then car hire and then moved into something like that was, that does that sound right?
Veronique Eastham (05:58):
Luciano is called Luke started with his sister who was knitting and that’s how they, they started, you know, they started to create funky sort of design with made of, you know, beautiful material. And it started very cottage like, and to this day, the, the business is still in the family hands. It’s not order on the stock market or anything like that. It’s still in the family. When I was teaching at the college in Truro, I, as a client, I still had the shop in those days. And as a client they, I, I requested to take my students to the headquarters. They let me in, and I took my students with me so that my students could see the process from the prototype right up to the end result, the end product, and also how things were merchandised in a mock street and mock shops. So they could see how it was all done from the, from the idea to the prototype, to the actual finished product. It was fantastic, a fantastic experience, which they were privileged to experience as it, that wouldn’t have happened without me being a client, because they don’t do that kind of thing.
Rich Gunton (07:06):
And I suppose seeing that process from, from start to finish, finish rather, and, and something that is, you know, must be now year after year, decade after decade of their success, something that’s really quite fine. That must be fantastic to sort of witness.
Veronique Eastham (07:20):
They, they met all the designers, they met, you know, all the, the, what the people that were specialized in men’s wear, women’s wear, underwear, children’s wear; all of that and accessories. So they saw the prototype of all of this merchandise being created and being focused for the next season, how the whole process works.
Rich Gunton (07:42):
This is the Outset Podcast. We’re talking today to Veronique Eastham. She’s the business advisor or one of the business advisors on the Outset Cornwall team. So we’re talking about visual marketing and setting out your store. We’ve obviously talked about your career to date. So if we had to put a simple label, I suppose, on the tin of what visual marketing is, how would you describe it? How would you sort of suggest, well, this is what visual marketing is?
Veronique Eastham (08:08):
There’s many ways of describing it, but it’s basically putting together a look, a story, an image that will reinforce the ethos and your brand, and that will create a desire or plant a seed into the potential customer’s mind that will tell that customer “buy me”.
Veronique Eastham (08:33):
It’s marketing that is done visually, you put things together to create a desire, to plant a seed into the potential customer’s mind, which will make that person linger either in store or actually come in the store when the windows are appealing and attractive and creating an interest; attracting that potential customer’s interest and desire and, and converting that into action.
Rich Gunton (09:06):
We talk a lot about physical window, but also, you know, in, in the world of digital marketing and that type of thing it’s a similar sort of setup, isn’t it? And also, you know, it is certainly within the Outset material? Well, at present, anyway, we’re recording this in July 2021 where we have AIDA funnel. So, you know, you create the awareness and then the interest and then some of those will fall away and some of them will move through to, as you say, think actually I’ve got a desire or, or, you know, that’s something I’m not necessarily thought about, but it’s jumping outta that window at me or off of the shelf at me. And then it’s like you say, setting that seed to their mindset to then hopefully purchase. And I suppose that’s the difference between a, a sort of a luxury product and a luxury brand and something that is essential, you know, perhaps like our, our supermarket sort of choice, perhaps mm-hmm, <affirmative>, there’s a difference of the wallet or the purse.
Veronique Eastham (09:53):
There is, but the, the principles are the same. You are upselling, first of all, you start with a product. So it could be say, we, we are in Tesco or we are in the supermarket and they’re promoting Italian food; the way to go about that in order to upsell and sell as much products as possible would be to create a story. So we would start say a packet of pasta, and then you would merchandise that then with everything that goes together that you would need in order to make a sauce, for instance. So you would promote the oil, you would promote the tomatoes, you would promote the cheese or the various sauces that, that are available, that you could put with it. You could maybe put also some recipe cards that push certain ingredients that that person looking at this might not have thought of or known about.
Veronique Eastham (10:46):
So anything that relates to that story that you’re trying to tell, that you’re trying to promote to the customer would be grouped and put together in a way that is attractive and that is making the purchase easier for your customer so that your customer is not looking for, you know, the cheese that will go with that particular recipe; everything is put together. Everything is made easy for the customer to find what they need and what they want. The, the cost of those products are low, you know, in comparison to a luxury product, but the principles are the same. You’re making it easier for your customer to buy a whole set of products that they might not otherwise have bought. They might have just come for a tin of spa- not a tin, a packet of spaghetti, but in the end, in the end, they come out with a basket full of stuff. That’s the, the whole point of merchandising cleverly and attractively. It makes it easier for the customer to buy and for you to promote what it is that you wanna promote. It makes it more successful in terms of sales.
Rich Gunton (11:53):
Almost the obvious thing is, is make it easy for our customers to buy whether they’re coming into our shop or, or looking on our Amazon store or, or our website or, or whatever, but how you sort of discuss that about the past and, and all the complimentary products that works really, really well. And it makes me think actually, I don’t know if we’ve got one in Cornwall of the brand KIOS so go to Kaos and have a nice pasta dish, which, you know, frankly, doesn’t, you know, this is not, it’s not expensive for, you know, key material, but whilst you’re in there, they’ve set out their store, which is part of what we’re talking about today. And part of the visual communication and visual marketing with those actual, you know, lovely oils and, and past, and, and as you say, complimentary products for you to be able to take that home to potentially re recreate or as a gift for, for someone else, et cetera. Yeah.
Veronique Eastham (12:43):
It, obviously, it all comes down to knowing who your customer base is. That is massively important for the look to appeal, to the particular type of customer base that you are after that you want to reach. You’ve got to be very aware of what it is that they like and what it is that they aspire to. And suddenly you have to appeal to them in that way. So it’s really quite subtle. And, and you need to use a little bit of psychology with that as well. The, the fact that you need to know who your tribe is, your customer base is massively important because if you set out with the wrong type of app rail or the wrong type or colors or font or whatever is that you are using is not appealing to the customer that you want. It’s not gonna work for you, that customer’s not gonna come in your store or to your stall, if you’re in a craft fair, et cetera.
Rich Gunton (13:34):
It’s very interesting. And Veronique, you know, you mentioned before there that you originally originated from the wonderful Paris, and it’s probably one of the, the leading places in the world, Paris for, for restaurants and for boutique shops and those sorts of visual kind of bringing us into buy when we hadn’t even considered that we needed, you know, X, Y, and Z. And I suppose to a different extent and making it relevant to us here at home with the, the retail shop for Bennetton that you had in Truro is, as you say, understanding who your customer is, understanding who the tribe is that you are, that you are trying to, to capture into market and to tell the story, to invite them in to, to, to buy from you. Because that’s where an awful lot of our Outset clients will be listening to the, the podcast and be thinking, great. Well, I wanna do that back. Where do I even start with market research? How do I know who my customer is? How did you start? Who, who was your customer for the shop in Truro?
Veronique Eastham (14:29):
I worked in there as the manager, before I actually bought the business for a couple of years. I was aware who, who the customer was. Yeah. And so it was a, a generally more moneyed customer a little bit older, not teenage, like people who also had children, because we had the children’s wear. I saw that it was about 36% of my turnover. I had to focus on the sort of slightly older, you know, 25 plus who wanted modern classic kind of, you know, app around really.
Rich Gunton (15:03):
And, and it is interesting. And I think it’s, it’s almost, you know, something I’ve said to, to some set clients in, in the past not to apologize for your price points and not to apologize for the target market that you’re going after. I’ve got a, a, a, a flooding two year old going on 14. And if I wanted to buy Charlie a, a, a jumper today, I could walk through Truro and I could probably spend anything from four or five pounds through to 20, 30, 40 pounds. Yeah. But it’s still a jumper. And I think that’s the key difference. Isn’t it is where you position yourself in the marketplace. The branded story that you tell and, and who your customers are.
Veronique Eastham (15:41):
It’s massively important to know that and to, to attract that particular type of person that you’ve set out to reach massively because you can’t be all to all men, it’s not possible. So you have to choose where you wanna go your direction, who it is that you feel is, or that, you know, when you’ve done your market research, that is the right person to reach. Once it’s clear, it becomes easy. I used to be offered in the showroom pieces that I thought, oh, they were like, amazing, fantastic, beautiful. For instance, I remember this particular denim jacket that was fur lined. It was absolutely gorgeous, but it was something like, even at the time, nearly 200 pounds retail. And I thought, I love this, but that customer doesn’t come in my shop. I’m gonna be left with them. I mean, don’t get me wrong. You can’t, you have to put your neck on the line a little bit at times and you have to buy statement pieces that will attract people into the shop. Otherwise, your shop’s boring. If you, you, if you always play safe, you have to have statement pieces. But at the same time, you, you know, you have to work within your budget. So it is massively important to know who it is that you are reaching out to. And then that will determine everything. Everything that you do, you, you are buying the way you display things, the colors in your shop, the, the props in your shop. It just determines everything. I think.
Rich Gunton (17:06):
You know, in terms of, of someone listening to this and they’re thinking, okay, great. Well, I, I, I’ve not got a shop in Falmouth or, or in Truro, but I am wanting to get out there on the craft market scene, for instance, or whatever. Can you pass to the listener? Where would they even sort of start?
Veronique Eastham (17:20):
Again, once you determine who your customer is, who it is you want to attract, then you have to think about, you’ve only got like a, a table that’s maybe at best two metres long, something like that. You wanna stand out from everyone else. So how you gonna do that? You’ve determined on your customer base. You’ve got the products. So you’ve got to make that table attractive and standing up from everyone else. So it very much depends on the type of products you have and what kind of story you want to tell according, you know, to the customer base that you’ve chosen to do and what it is that you sell. Setting out that stall, understanding who the buyer is, you know, making it easy for them to buy, making it easy for them to try and then taking them on a, sort of a journey with complimentary products. And that actually all fits in together to sell that lifestyle and sell that kind of desire and, and dream and, and those sorts of things.
Rich Gunton (17:59):
Veronique Eastham (18:19):
It’s obvious, but also quite subtle. The whole thing.
Rich Gunton (18:22):
Yes. Yeah. And I always like to sort of finish these podcasts and in some way, in being able to say, right, what next for you, the listener. And I would say that the, the great thing, if we’re looking at marketing and how we’re gonna set out our store, whether that be in Truro at a farmer’s market or down in Falmouth or, or anywhere else is we have all of these places. And, and certainly hopefully as we get into the summer and double jabs and vaccines and all those sorts of things, we’re recording this in July, 2021 is that we can actually firsthand go to these places and see what other people are doing. And we can see almost as, as if where the, the critique can go, actually I’m drawn to that store. Actually. I’m drawn to that shop window.
Veronique Eastham (19:02):
That’s right. And asking yourself, why, why is that?
Rich Gunton (19:05):
Veronique Eastham (19:05):
Yeah. What, what brings you there? What is it that makes you want to linger in that place rather than next to you? I have a little jewelry business. I make my own jewelry; in the past, I’ve had, you know, done merchandising for that. So again, you know, when you go to a jewelers, there’s loads of them. So how you’re gonna stand out from everyone else? What’s so different about you? What, you know, why would they come to you? And so it’s really, really important that you use something that’s eye-catching, but not enough, if you see what I mean again, you’ve got to understand who your customer base is and your price band, and so forth in order to attract that person. I mean, if you sell cheap things and that, then there’s no point for your store to look high end. If you do sell high end products, then it’s got to look high end and your props are got to look high, end, your lighting, everything that you put together, your colours, your leafleting, your background, everything has got to tie in with the impression that you wanna give and the customer you want to attract.
Rich Gunton (20:08):
Veronique Eastham, business advisor for Outset joining us on the Outset Podcast. Thank you very, very much indeed for your time. It’s been wonderful talking to you.
Thanks for listening to the Outset Podcast, brought to you by the Outset Cornwall programme, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, HM Government and the Outset Foundation, supporting people to become self-employed and start their own business. For more information, visit outset.org/cornwall.