Despite the numerous obstacles the retailer faced in 2020, Jeanswest managed to retain the trust and loyalty of consumers, recently taking the title of Clothing Store of the Year 2020 in the Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Awards.
George Yeung, managing director of Jeanswest, attributes the win to the high standards of customer services in the Jeanswest team across the country, despite it being a “very tough year”.
“Our focus was to ensure that customer satisfaction continued to be at the core of everything we do as a business,” Yeung said.
Jeanswest previously won the Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Awards in 2016 and 2017, but Yeung said this time was particularly significant.
“Without [our customers and our team], we wouldn’t have come this far. Even though we were winners in the past, this win in 2020 means more for us because we have been able to reinvent ourselves, to some extent, after such difficult circumstances. I think that it is something that we should all be proud of,” he said.
While many retailers leaned on JobKeeper during the pandemic, Jeanswest was not eligible for the payment and instead leaned on its relationships with landlords, particularly Charter Hall and Stockland, to support its 104-strong store network.
“It was very difficult in that sense because we had hardly any support from government, but fortunately, a lot of the landlords were quite supportive and we managed to get through it,” he said.
As a result, the retailer recently opened the doors at three new locations, Dubbo Square (NSW), Lake Macquarie Square (NSW) and Spencer Outlet Centre (Vic), and has three more openings planned for 2021. Yeung said there will be store growth in all states.
“We have a few stores in the pipeline, including some relocation in existing centres. We are going back into Willows Shopping Centre (Qld), we are relocating in Bundaberg (Qld) and Albury (NSW) and also Rockingham in WA.”
Yeung added that there will be a refresh of the existing store layout in some locations to better serve shoppers.
“We work very closely with the landlord to see what’s the best thing to do for the centre and for ourselves as well. We need to continue reinventing ourselves in terms of store fitout, stock configuration, to serve our customers.”
Investment in e-commerce
Jeanswest also upgraded its website last year to better cope with increased demand during Covid-19 lockdowns.
“We have seen the efficiency of the website and the conversion of our selection has dramatically improved,” Yeung said. “Our customers actually interact with us more on our website now.”
The team is currently in the process of adding more content to the website to strengthen the channel and drive communications with customers both online and offline.
Despite scaling back its presence on major marketplaces during the replatforming, the brand recently relaunched on The Iconic and is now also selling via Amazon and Catch. Yeung said these e-commerce giants are an important factor in growing the brand’s consumer base.
“We definitely see marketplace as an opportunity for us. For us, in particular, that will give us a bit more exposure to customers that may not have shopped with us before.”
Last year, Yeung highlighted the importance of returning to its denim roots and reconnecting with the local community. He told Inside Retail that strategy hasn’t changed, “even during these difficult times”.
And while the business faced much supply chain disruption throughout the pandemic, the team remained focused on being “as transparent as possible about the issues” and guided customers towards similar products.
“We have a lot of loyal customers that know our products very well, so that in a lot of cases we were still able to service them,” he said.
Sustainability is a key focus for Jeanswest moving forward. It is currently planning the launch of a “better denim” range which will include the use of recycled materials in clothing and eco-friendly fibres such as EcoVero and Tencel.
Yeung is all too aware of the challenges that lay ahead in retail, but believes that internal communication is key to driving better outcomes. As part of his efforts to motivate the team, he shares a monthly blog update detailing how the business is performing, key learnings and regularly awards the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the retail team.
“One thing I emphasise to everyone is to remember to keep doing the right thing. It can only take us to a better position, even though it might be baby steps, slowly but surely, we’ll get there.”