The Netherlands' largest department store Vroom & Dreesman is regularly on the front pages this week, and not because they are so successful, a good employer or a pleasant partner. V&D now seems to be going down. We will certainly see that in the streets, but will we really notice it as a consumer?
In the past, about 15 years ago, V&D had to go for your camping gear, the latest CDs and DVDs, cheap books, nice kitchen utensils, tickets, sunglasses and clothing. I sum it up because this has all changed slowly. The range was adjusted (no more camping gear), also the pricing policy (standard V&D was the most expensive for CDs and DVDs) and to name a personal example: clothing they no longer had in my size (I just hear that in the meantime they have my length pants!). For me, V&D became the store of: don't have it, little or no choice, and certainly too expensive. The service in the store also declined. I do not blame this on the staff, who were deployed ever younger, but mainly on personnel policy.
Target group and offer
If you look at a larger scale, it is very unclear to me what the target group of the V&D is. Everything and everyone seems like it. At least mid-economic and mid-cultural: the middle class. And that has been enormously affected by the crisis. "Getting value for money" became even more important. Price fighters such as Action grew and the luxury market became cheaper. The V&D remained in the middle. While thanks to continuous improvement of the supply, consumers also want value for money after the crisis.
So what should V&D do? This state that now circulates on social media says a lot:
Why the store?
But this does not give a full story. This way you get the idea that all stores have died, and the benefits of a store do not come to the fore. What are they then? Being able to feel a clothing fabric, taste something, smell it, gain inspiration, in short experience. As a consumer we like to turn everything into an experience. And that is constantly changing: who is going to enjoy a day of shopping? We do that less, and if we do it, we want to make it a special day. Who else goes to the V&D? (and the monkey band is already gone!)
A piece of V&D nostalgia: worth every quarter!
Store in combination with online
The store as a sales channel is changing and companies that do not respond to it in time are falling. The rental prices are disproportionately high, just like the expectations of the consumer. Yet there are countless successful store formulas, often in combination with online channels. For example, I like ordering from Bruna.nl and picking it up at the store. Exactly what Ahold is doing now with Bol.com and AH. And Coolblue now also has stores: flagship stores designed to allow consumers to gain experience with new devices.
Which channel do you use and why?
The physical location is no longer central. It is about an optimal mix of different channels: omnichannel. V&D finally started this in May 2014. But too late. The focus of omnichannel lies in the customer experience: how can each channel help the customer further? The total value that is built up in this way translates into customer loyalty and brand preference. Despite the sharp focus on price, consumers want to pay a little more if they know they are making the best choice.
Would you still buy a V&D gift card for someone? What would you do if you get one?
So how can V&D become the best choice again?
- Expand the range enormously
- Low prices
- Handy delivery options
- Easy returns
- Lots of service
This does indeed immediately remind you of a Bol.com or a Coolblue. Such as Emerce already writes: why doesn't V&D buy up Wehkamp.nl? Or even one step further: why is V&D not going to cooperate with an Amazon or even an Alibaba? (Chinese version of Amazon and much larger). That naturally gives logistical challenges but also chances of survival.
First: stores may close, and must also in some cases. For example, there is a wine merchant from 't Gooi who stopped his wine shop, sells everything online and occasionally rents a physical space for wine tasting. If you keep the stores as a channel, how can V&D do better than all those online parties?
- Newest products can try in the store
- Free pick up at the store
- Offer extra services that require physical contact: for example, take out a new subscription (for example, T-Mobile now has someone come to you)
- Fashion shows, tastings and workshops, in short: physical experience.
- Set up active programs about fair trade, reuse of materials, make jewelry yourself, or: respond to personal interests.
- Ensuring good PR: rewarding the staff, pleasant cooperation with partners and being innovative in customer focus.
The V&D concept
Do you recognize the above as a V&D concept? No. The old V&D concept is therefore not viable. We show this in our consumer behavior and we read that in the newspapers. It is time for a complete renewal. The question I would still ask: would it be wise to do this under a completely new name, given the serious PR damage that is now being suffered?
Image: "Bimbobox" by Then Kamminga