Ziera shoes was a stand out performer at the Top Shop awards in October.
The brand’s Broadway Newmarket store took out not only the Overall Regional Top Shop for the upper North Island, but also the Supreme Award for the country’s Top Shop.
Meanwhile, their store in Riccarton, Christchurch won the Fashion, Footwear and Accessories category in Canterbury and the upper South Island. Two other Ziera stores were runners up in their categories. Clearly, the company is doing something right with its in store experience.
The company’s origins go back to 1933, when podiatrists and brothers-in-law Mervyn Adams and David Robertson saw a gap in the market for shoes that were orthopaedically “good enough”.
They embarked on a project to study 10,000 women’s feet and create moulds for shoes based on their needs.
Eighty-two years later, catering to customers’ needs remains a key focus for the brand.
This focus helped cement their Broadway store’s Supreme Award win. Judges commented that Ziera’s staff were knowledgeable, had great sales skills and clearly understood the desires of customers.
National retail manager Wendy McLaughlin credits the Broadway store’s success to the sales team’s passion for the job.
“The team aren’t selling shoes, they’re selling a solution that needs to be lasting,” she says.
“They recognise how important customer experience is in store and without our sales team, we can’t make that connection to the customer.”
She says all of Ziera’s staff go through an induction and training period of around three months. There are periodical workshops held for both new and existing staff to constantly update their knowledge.
The training is extensive: staff learn how to fit orthotic inlays to customers’ shoes, visit a podiatrist to get a better understanding of feet, and have their sales skills sharpened by online sales training company RedSeed.
Staff achievements are also recognized and awarded throughout the course of their training and their careers. McLaughlin says this is essential for a great customer experience.
“[Employers should] recognise individual or team results because if you don’t, there’s no incentive or motivation for them to continue providing a great experience for customers,” she says.
Ziera has recently begun to work with Service IQ, an industry training organisation that gives employees the opportunity to complete qualification certificates.
McLaughlin says this encourages their staff to develop positions in the company, and promotes retail as a career path.
She says though they have part-time workers who are studying and eventually move on to different careers, there’s a number of staff who have been with the company for 10 or more years.
“We’re able to retain staff for long periods of time and that’s a key to our success because there’s a great depth of knowledge. We retain product knowledge through their experience.”
Designwise, Top Shop’s judge said that the winning Broadway flagship was a very clear, attractive store with an excellent eye for display detail.
Property, design and research specialist agency RCG was responsible for Ziera's retail strategy and design.
McLaughlin says changes to the store’s design were based off in-store research and feedback from customers.
When customers said that they had trouble finding what they were looking for, the company focused on product presentation.
This included changing how they grouped their shoes, lighting, display of new season ranges and store layout so that shoe styles can be quickly and easily found.
Consistency across store design and product design was also a factor in the Broadway store’s décor.
McLaughlin draws comparison between the comfort levels of Ziera shoes and the Broadway store, saying that creating designated sitting areas with couches helped to make customers feel more at ease.
The eye-catching zigzag trellis design used in and outside the store is also being incorporated onto the soles of shoes.
The company also worked with Yves Dombrowsky, the owner of the Yves Andre customised perfume bar in Auckland, to create a personalised perfume scent called “Fleurs De Printemps” for its stores.
Judging by its success in Top Shop, Ziera’s emphasis on the finer details seems to be paying off.
Ziera national retail manager Wendy McLaughlin’s five top tips for retail success:
1. Understand your customers’ needs. It’s not just about what they want, but how they want it delivered to them as an experience that lasts.
2. Training is extremely important, especially if you want to retain staff members. Providing good, solid training for your team is the key to success in any retail business.
3. Engage with your team regularly and give them the chance to give you feedback on what’s working and what’s not. They interact with customers every single day, so it’s important to listen to what they have to say.
4. Recognise individual and team results. If you don’t, there’s no incentive or motivation to continue providing a great experience for the customers.
5. Be aware of your competitors and what they’re doing. You don’t have to copy what they’re doing, just do it in your own special way.
This article was originally published in issue 736 of NZ Retail Magazine.