Retail trendspotting with Nikos Delinikos from Eton Shirts
The retail rollercoaster is moving at breakspeed as the industry continues to transform and evolve at record pace.
With so many different things happening at once, it can be far too easy to get swept up in the whirlwind and lose sight of what’s important. So what should you, as an ambitious retailer, be focussing on right now to build your business, strengthen your brand and lay the groundwork for sustained success?
To help answer some of the most burning questions on retailers’ lips, we spoke to Global Operations Manager Nikos Delinikos at the recognized, high-end fashion brand Eton Shirts.
Nikos started his journey in retail 13 years ago, climbing every rung of the ladder to get to the position he’s in today. From working the shop floor as a store associate and store manager roles through to his current global operations role, Nikos has experience across all the touchpoints in the retail environment – and has worked for some of the biggest names in the business including Tommy Hilfiger and now Eton Shirts.
This means he can share unique insight into how the industry has evolved, what the biggest challenges facing retailers today are, and what retailers should be doing to be successful now and into the future.
We caught up with Nikos and here’s what he told us…
Nikos, thanks so much for your time. Let’s get straight into it. What would your three top tips for retailers be right now?
What a great place to start! For me, retail is about connecting with customers and building relationships with them. It is – and always will be – the key to everything.
During Covid, where there was zero physical contact with customers, alot of retailers – like us at Eton Shirts – used tools like Zoom, Teams, FaceTime and WhatsApp in order to have a direct connection with customers. As we now transition back to where we were before the pandemic, we’re keeping elements such as these that served us really well over the past two years to make the experience we offer even better. We need to incorporate more digital solutions into the stores, offer customers more availability than we ever have before, and get back to building personal relationships with customers again.
So, with this in mind, these are my three top tips…
The first one is to have the ability to adapt. The environment is constantly changing so you need to be very keen on wanting to change, and wanting to understand the new ways of working in retail.
Number two is to understand the environment that you are in – especially the business side of it – and see how everything is connected. If you’re not doing this, then you’re going to miss out.
And the third tip is to understand that retail is about building relationships. Take the automotive industry as an example. Polestar, the Swedish electrical car company, opened a store on the busiest shopping street in Stockholm. It’s something no car retailer has ever done before. It’s a showroom, with one car in it, but all other cars are offered digitally. They are where their customers are rather than being 20 minutes outside of the city in a warehouse with 500 cars. Tesla and Ikea are now doing the same thing. They’re focusing on building smaller locations in higher footfall areas, and this is what I mean when I say retail is about understanding the environment and building relationships.
If I was a CEO today, the most important thing I’d be doing is trying to understand the next generation and the new customers – because they don’t shop like our parents did. Ask yourself: “Where are they? What do they think? What do they want?”
If you don’t connect with these customers, then, eventually, you will be out of business. Understanding new behaviors is key and one of the ways of doing this is to open locations in the best places where these people are – then you will be able to understand them better.
Following on from this, what excites you the most about the future of retail and the direction we’re going in?
As an operations manager, my focus is not on the actual product. I’m more focused on the logistical part of the business, the stock handling, the inventory… And what excites me the most right now, is the fact that we can now build stores with less volumes, stores that are more about showcasing our products, creating that showroom feeling. We do not need to overstock the stores with huge volumes of product. We can also be much more transparent and we can be much better at achieving a positive economic outcome for every store. It is the ability to incorporate everything together that excites me the most and the power to utilize stores as showrooms.
You’ve seen firsthand how retail has evolved over the past decade and more. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry?
The eComm boom has made life harder for stores, that’s for sure. And this means that in physical retail environments, we need to create an ‘unheard of’ experience. The experience and the customer journey needs to be so much better than it was five or six years ago.
Today, we need to have a 360 view of customers. The customer experience you offer online needs to be matched in stores and vice versa. The 360 view gives retailers the knowledge they need to set an even higher standard.
You started working in retail as a store associate and, from that perspective, what makes great customer service?
The best customer experience, for me, is based on having a product mindset and knowledge of the products combined with understanding the customer, getting to know them and building a relationship with them.
A long term customer needs to understand the values of the business and this can be done through the products and through the physical interactions they have in store. It’s a combination of the human part – building relationships – and understanding how crucial the digital aspect is to achieve the desired outcome.
In-store tech has advanced hugely in the past few years. What impact does this have on store associates and their ability to deliver an enhanced customer experience?
The digital aspect of retail – and digital tools – have changed the roadmap of what an in-store experience is and what customers have come to expect. Today, if a customer walks into a store and what they are looking for is not in stock, they expect to be offered it in other ways, for example it being shipped directly to their home from a warehouse. We saw how crucial this was during COVID – which definitely sped up the process of companies embracing digitalization. Many companies now have very technically advanced tools for this which, absolutely, helps them provide the kind of service the customers expect.
Is this combination of sophisticated digital tools and building physical relationships where the future of retail is heading?
Yes, definitely, 100%. If you fail to do this, then you are going to be out of business. It’s common for companies to put the focus either on the physical, or on the digital contact but I think you need to have a symbiosis of both. It’s, obviously, what everyone is trying to accomplish but it’s very difficult to find the right combination of both and incorporate it throughout the company.
How does tech make this future a reality?
It’s key. We need to have the platforms available to fuel these transformations, bringing the digital and physical together. If you do not have a platform to do this, then you’re missing out completely. The platform is extremely necessary and with Sitoo we can incorporate both eComm and physical retail together in perfect harmony. It gives us the perfect set up and foundations to start building more – and better – experiences in the stores. There are a lot of companies who are offering omni solutions to retailers, but in my opinion there’s still just a small handful of companies who really understand the omni way of thinking. Sitoo has the retail experience and the eComm experience and this shows through the expertise and knowledge they give us.
Nikos Delinikos is the Global Operations Manager at Eton Shirts. You can find him on LinkedIn here.