Passion is an absolute pre-requisite for commercial retail success

Successful retail businesses are driven by passionate people,
with sales & profits the commercial outcome of a passion for product and lifestyle.



It would be unfair and inaccurate to say that retail businesses have been without passion as in fact some of the most famous and successful retailers ever, from the Limited Group to the Body Shop, have been built around passionate individuals. However too many other companies, founded in less demanding and competitive times, rely too much on simply selling the same stuff to the same people in a cold commercial way.

“Ordinary retailers, selling ordinary products to ordinary people” is a commercial model firmly dead and buried in the past.


What “ordinary” does in any context is to remove passion from the retail equation, and as we move into this 24/7 emotionally charged selling environment passion about the product, passion about the brand and a passion about selling to customers is what is differentiating the retail success stories from the failures.

Passion straddles a diverse number of retail models yet drives them all to success.


Traditional retailers, born to sell, continue to be successful only through a constant passion in new and updated product assortments, lifestyle brand development and dynamic events and experiences. This new energy in old businesses creates constant surprise and delight in both the staff and then the customer.

Customer passion for a retail brand is impossible if the staff and employees in head office and stores are devoid of such expectant energy and engagement.

Businesses such as Selfridges, John Lewis and Next generate this excitement from within which then becomes infectious to its customers. The dynamic experiences and beauty of display in Selfridges, the passion for product detail, style and quality in Next and the excellence and engagement of customer service in John Lewis.

The “extreme value of passion” is no more evident than in the many new stores appearing in our streets where retail was not the starting point but the commercial incarnation of a passion in life.


If you consider the example of Body Shop and Anita Roddick this is of course history repeating itself but whereas at the time of the birth of Body Shop this entrepreneurial passion was an exception it is now the norm and the essential ingredient in new retail where selling an assortment is simply a natural extension of a 24/7 passion for life.

As a result we have every type of sport evolving from active participation into commercial retail from the superb Rapha in the world of cycling with its high performance product and lifestyle participation, through Lululemon firstly turning yoga into retail spaces and now turning retail spaces into yoga centres, to the extreme of eSports where brands such as FNatic are developing team merchandise and developing physical spaces that combine retail with food and hospitality and active involvement.

Retail concepts are appearing from so many diverse situations and lifestyle origins but all driven by a core passion at the heart of the business.


T2 turning an active passion for tea into an international retail brand, Burro e Salvia delivering an interactive pasta experience from the shores of Italy to the streets of London, Le Labo creating bespoke perfumes from a love of natural scents and ingredients, House of Hackney evolving a passion for fabrics and texture into an emerging textile business across the world, Lomography opening a string of international stores and gallery experiences from a community of lovers of traditional film photography, Choccywoccydoodah with stores and a multi-channel business born from the creation of extraordinary celebration cakes, Hotel Chocolate growing cocoa in plantations to create an inspirational assortment of temptations, The Bike Shed turning a passion for motorbike customisation into a blog phenomenon and a store, restaurant and barber shop experience…and many, many, many more.

(Look out for more blogs in the “a passion for retail!” series covering exceptional examples of passionate retailers.)


The new era of retail is exciting for those that are exciting!


For those that aren’t there is a need to balance operational pragmatism with emotional engagement.

The route to engagement begins with discovering what to be passionate about. For some this is blindingly clear and the simple reason for leaving your bed every day, whilst for others the gems of inspiration need to be more systematically discovered sometimes hidden deep within the corporate culture.

The second step is to instil enthusiasm into the business, to energise every person to be proud and passionate about the product and the brand.

The final objective to communicate this intrinsic brand enthusiasm to the customer.

Passion through product, through people and through places.



Are you an established retailer that’s lost its passion for life?

Are you a new business looking to convert a passion into a product and a retail space?

VM-unleashed helps a variety of retailers across a range of categories to maximise their retail potential through improving operations, communicating emotion and balancing both the pragmatism with the passion.

For more information please visit…

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