Break ranks and conquer
Sunday 19 January 1997
There is a possibly apocryphal story of a person who took a set of tyres back to the company and was reimbursed - even though Nordstrom has never sold tyres.
More realistically, there are hundreds of other tales of how customers are served by people who help them to try on things, accompany them from one department to another, look after any alterations that need to be made, wrap things up, and deal with any returns. This clearly runs counter to current management thinking, if only because it involves employing more, not fewer, people. But according to a recently published book by Jean-Marie Dru, called Disruption, the company has increased sales sevenfold in the past 15 years.
Indeed, Nordstrom is cited as an example of how it pays to ignore conventions because that can can create a competitive edge. Maybe it is because we are just emerging from a period in which management appeared to be all about cutting costs, but a lot of the other cases cited by Mr Dru in Disruption (John Wiley & Sons, pounds 19.99) involve service.
There is, for example, Virgin, a brand that Richard Branson is stretching to cover almost anything from music sales and bridal wear to financial services and air travel largely on the basis of improved service. There is also The Gap, which, Mr Dru argues, has "got consumers to buy the idea that unobtrusive clothing actually enhances a person's own unique look".
He might have added that The Gap has broken free of the clothing retailer's traditional reliance on seasonal collections, which has the effect of encouraging shoppers to visit the shops more regularly. This is because customers never know what might be on sale there.
Mr Dru is a seasoned advertising executive - he is chairman of the BDDP Group in Paris and previously worked at Saatchi & Saatchi and Young & Rubicam - and much of the book is devoted to how advertising campaigns often succeed by breaking the mould. That may be true, although it is also fair to say that trends come and go in that world as much as in any other.
But it is quite another thing to implant this type of creative thinking into industries other than those involved in hi-tech areas, where companies such as 3M live or die by innovation.
Nevertheless, at a time when everybody is talking about the need to be able to transform oneself and to live with such dramatic change, many business people will find it useful to have set out for them a few tips on how they can take on a more creative approach.
The section that describes how creativity can be planned (rather than be purely a result of inspiration) is likely to prove especially helpful.
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Russian hack of President Obama's emails worse than previously admitted
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
UK weather: Britain braced for snow to replace sun as arctic air mass moves in
Nepal earthquake: US Pastor Tony Miano sparks outcry by suggesting Nepalis should convert and not rebuild their 'pagan shrines'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
iJobs Money & Business
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...