Retail: A Game of Two Halves:

Retail: A Game of Two Halves:


Love it or hate it, you can’t escape it at the moment. Even a trip out for some retail therapy will have you ducking under flags and bunting, taking evasive action to avoid colliding with giant TV wielding consumers or staring vacantly at World Cup sponsored coffee cups, sandwich packets and cheerleading cup cakes.



Of course the World’s premier football competition is of a greater or lesser commercial importance to a large number of retailers and brands who have unwittingly tied their own corporate flags to the shaky England mast. However there are deeper connections and lessons to be drawn from the world of football. Retail may be a game of 4 seasons, rather than 2 halves but in terms of organisation and functions every successful team, football or retail, is made up of 2 distinctly different but equally important halves.


Every football team needs a reliable defence and a dynamic frontline, and the better each part, and the better the balance between the two then invariably the more successful the team.


The side with the unbreakable defence but no attacking flare will survive disasters, record the occasional upset but will never flourish or develop into a championship winner, will never engage the enthusiasm of anyone except the most die-hard fan, and will never create any loyalty with the world at large. Equally the attacking team that throws caution to the wind with a reckless abandonment of defence may at first attract a huge following whilst the goals fly in, but when the need for attrition is required as it always will be, the monotony and predictability of defeat will have even the largest fan-base heading for the turnstiles and the lure of the early bus home to a world more secure and reliable.

Imagine then the two halves of any retailer – the buying & the selling. This is the magic combination that creates the assortment that customers will die for, and the brand, channels and environments that attract and sell to our loyal customer base. Equally important but decidedly different, the buying and selling teams make up every successful retailer.


In the best tradition of football, let’s first look at our retail defence, because as any football aficionado will know, all good teams are built from the back, or to be more retail precise, the back-room.


Every retailer is built on its assortment, and any retailer that isn’t will soon hit the rocks of retail failure. The buying and merchandising teams build from the back creating authority and commercial structure that won’t allow any competition to surpass its strength, nor breach any soft-goals nor score any own goals. The buying defence is well organised, works in unison almost by tuition, from the years of practice and learning. As a team they benchmark the champions, scrutinising every move from the best around to learn and to predict the strengths and future moves of the opposition. On both wings they cover equally the history of previous games and the tactics and forward thinking of those around them.

Similarly, every retailer needs to sell, to attract to excite and to engage its customers, dazzling them with the fancy footwork of this seasons fashions, spraying intelligent passes into the open spaces of opportunity, moving as a unit covering every blade of grass, with the occasional superstar to catch the headlines, thrill the crowd and score the elusive goals that every retailer strives to convert. Every successful forward line probes and explores every possibility and weakness in the market, from the right flank of a dynamic store portfolio, every improving changing and developing, to the left side of the digital playing field toying with the touchline and the offside trap in the perpetual attempt to gain an extra yard of free space; the forward midfield pulling the strings, controlling the pace and deciding when to attack and explode in the very best tradition of the dynamic marketing and promotional calendar.


So we have the two halves – not natural bedfellows – on the one side, the steadfast reliable defence, on the other side the exciting often seemingly irresponsibly attacking force.


The bottom line, whether retail or football, the key to success is communication and coordination between defence and attack, between buying & selling. Step forward the coach, the manager, the mercurial and charismatic man manager who builds the squad, motivates the individuals and then moulds the team into cup winners and perennial champions.

Consider the FCUKs of this world, the fallen champions, full out on attack but when attacking options are exhausted lacking the defensive authority to build again from the back; consider the rising star of Primark building from a packed defence, reliable and consistent, and increasingly willing to attack with flare and speed in a quest for European dominance. The comparisons are more common than a nil-nil draw, the failures more prevalent than sick parrots and the successes more frequent that the moons we jump over.

So whilst the glorious game, or the cursed Cup, depending on your standpoint, is fresh in our minds it would do us well as retailers to reflect on our own team sheets, our competitors and our opportunities, as we build our match-winning squads of the future.

Any retailer will tell you the biggest division in retail companies is between head office and stores, board room and stockroom, buying and selling, our defence and our attack. So, from “Boardroom” to “Stockroom” let us strive to be team players, playing for one team with one team ethic and one single ambition.


Only then will our goals become realities and our dreams realise themselves as we reach the improbable heights of champions of the retail world.


VM-unleashed works with retail clients on the organisational structures and processes essential for successful retailing…


…here are a few people that we’ve helped that you may have heard of too…

Ferrari, Luxottica, Marks & Spencer, Primark, AllSaints, Carrefour, Camper, Cortefiel, Boots, Sainsbury, Sonae, Otto Versand, BonPrix, National Geographic, Flex, Gruppo Vestebene, Alessi, Eroski, Coin, Oviesse, Bally, Adidas, Sony, Clarks, Benetton, Orange, KappAhl, Imaginarium, Porcelanosa, Trucco and Ben Sherman.

some of our clients…

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if you would like to know more about our expertise, and how it could work for you, then please drop us a line.

+44 (0)7967 609849


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