Can you give us a run down of what the brand refresh involves?
The main elements of it are about trying to shift our personality and our tone of voice in order to broaden our appeal and give customers more of what they want.
There’s a change of logo, which will be rolling out to over 100 stores this side of Christmas. We’re also launching a new advertising campaign, including the new TV ad tagline ‘come and play’, inviting customers to come and try products in store and learn about technology. We’ve also been refreshing POS in our stores, so now there are bright colours all around.
We’re changing the uniforms, which are still professional but they’re going to be less formal. We will be getting colleagues to take their ties and jackets off and wear an open necked shirt, which will be in a number of bright colours –green, blue and pink. It will bring some colour and life and fun into our stores, and make them a bit more welcoming and friendly.
So it’s more of a lick of paint than a total overhaul?
It’s changing our communications stance. We’re now communicating more of our personality to broaden our appeal. We actually are quite different in what we do, we just haven’t necessarily communicated that as effectively as we’d like.
Why have you decided to do this now?
A lot of it stems from research we did at the back end of last year. We asked about 2,000 customers how they use electricals and what their attitude towards them is. They told us that they want to enjoy the shopping process more, and they want someone to really focus on the benefits of technology.
A lot of people in the market today just talk about product features, and don’t actually translate them into customer benefits. What we’re learning from customers is that they really want someone to do that translation for them. We thought that was an ideal opportunity because we’re a full service company anyway. That’s how we’re changing our communication in store.
What is it that differentiates Comet from the other major technology retail chains, Best Buy and Dixons?
I don’t think anyone stands out particularly as having a personality. This refresh is really focused on having a personality, as well as the knowledge. We’ve been making sure our colleagues are all well trained, and that means we can give excellent customer service; that’s something we’ve invested a lot in. I think we really want to change our communication now so we come across as more accessible and friendly, and less corporate than we have been in the past –and that our competitors are.
Do you think this ‘corporate’ stance is a put-off for shoppers?
I think we’d like to be more engaging, we’d like to talk to them more on their level, use less jargon, less corporate language and be a bit more real. We certainly want to soften and broaden our approach by being more welcoming to people. If you look at the market as a whole, it can be quite functional in the way it communicates.
Can you grow to be a larger player in the UK market?
We already are a large player in the market, we’re one of the top brands in the UK. One of the things we want to do with the brand refresh is broaden our appeal, and attract a wider audience, so in that sense yes we do.
And this refresh will help you take customers away from Dixons and Best Buy?
Certainly I expect us to appeal to a wider set of customers, yes. Are there any more store openings planned? Any other expansions here or abroad?
We’ve been very active in terms of our store refits this year, and our focus is really making sure that our heartland stores are up to scratch and have all the latest interactive displays. We’re currently refitting our smaller core stores at the moment; 34 will be completed by Christmas and there’s a few store openings as well.
Will there be more next year?
The plan this year has been really successful actually, so I imagine that will continue next year. What products will be the major drivers at retail over the coming year? One of the biggest drivers this year obviously has been 3D TV, which has been hugely successful for us. I think as prices come down it’s going to get more and more popular. The iPad has been very successful, and I imagine that will continue into its first Christmas. The new range of iPods will be doing well, as they always do.
There’s a couple of new things coming out which look like they’re going to perform well –such as the Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move.
Do you think tablets will take over from netbooks?
They take up a very similar space in the market. The main tablet at the moment is the iPad, and it’s still a lot more expensive than netbooks, so it’s not going to take over on its own, but you do have a lot of other products coming out with lower price points. It will start to steal from the netbook market, certainly.
You also mentioned 3D – do you think the general public is going to buy into it as much as the tech industry is hoping it will?
It has been very popular with us – we’ve sold thousands since it launched. It’s one of these stories that continues to grow and grow, as more things comes out to support it. The launch of the Sky TV channel will add more momentum to the 3D market. The launch of the Panasonic camcorder and other 3D cameras helps as well. There are more and more of these products launching on the market, which is keeping the growth going on 3D.
Where do you see Comet in five years’ time?
Our aim is to help people discover how technology can improve their lives. We’re focusing that on our communications, on how we grow a true multi-channel experience, and really driving our service message –that’s the key to making us go from strength to strength. We haven’t got any specifics about where we expect to be in terms of market share, but certainly in terms of what we need to do with the customer we’ve got a good plan.