I’ve lived and breathed Kikki.K for the last eight years because my wife is the general manager of retail operations. It’s great to walk into the business, and pretty much all our advisors are the same advisors I had a Witchery Group. It’s actually a business I know very well.
The vision and purpose of this business is why I’m there, because when I left David Jones I’d been in the corporate life for about 10 years. When I came out of David Jones, I thought, ‘I don’t want to do that anymore’. I’ve probably got one gig left in me in terms of CEO. The best fun I ever had as a CEO was running Witchery. I had a great time growing small brands, working in small teams, having a real growth engine where people can make a difference and do things quickly.
When I came out of David Jones, I was looking for four key criteria. The first one is the most critical, which is it’s a great brand. Let’s find great brands. The second thing, and I talk from experience, is small brands in Australia, to get huge growth, generally have to be lower demographics, so they can go for volume, or have the ability to keep rolling out different categories, or have the opportunity to go internationally. If you go internationally, you have to be non-seasonal. I was really looking for a non-seasonal brand. Thirdly, I was looking for a brand that was really kicking goals in digital. I think that was one of the key things that I felt, if you can get non-seasonal and digital, you can take on the world. Fourthly, I was looking for a brand with purpose – a brand that was going to make a difference in the world, and was actually going to have an enduring success which was not just about selling stuff. I concluded Kikki.K was a great brand to be with. That’s why I’m here.
Most great brands in the world have lots of stories. The stories are actually the most important thing about the brand. Certainly David Jones is one of the iconic brands in Australia, and the reason I think it’s gone through that sort of dip in performance is people have forgotten what David Jones was all about when it started. It kind of lost its way, being corporatised. It’s actually the stories behind the brand that made it successful, and will do again.
Kikki.K had global ambitions on day one. Amazing, if you think about it, that you’d be that confident and that positive. To put it in context, to get the business off the ground, Paul [Lacy, who founded Kikki.K with his wife, Kristina Karlsson] had to sell his house. They haven’t got a house now, in Australia. They’ve rented ever since, because every single dollar they’ve had has actually been pumped back into the business to make it world-class. The great thing about this vision, it’s almost never-ending. It’s enduring. The great thing about setting out when they were, on day one, was that every single person in the organisation lives by this vision. There’s never been a time where they’ve not been thinking about being a global business. Kristina is a very tenacious lady, and we have a very strong board for a tiny little business. We’re a heavy-hitting horde. Kristina turns up at board meetings with ‘I Love New York’ t-shirts on and says, ‘When can I have my shop in New York?’ The vision is keen, and they keep living by it.
The view of the business is Kikki.K is not just there to sell stuff. It is a beautiful brand, beautifully designed, and it’s very consistent throughout the world. But actually, it’s more than that. It’s actually there to give back something to our customers. It’s about worldwide balance. It’s about inspiration. It’s about dreaming. Visions won’t come alive unless you actually dream a little bit. It’s about doing, because you could have a great dream, but if you actually don’t get off your arse and do something about it, then that dream will never come to fruition. It’s about enjoying, and we take this very seriously. I’ve been around 40 years in retail, and I’ve worked with many organisations. I’ve seen lots of visions and purposes; I’ve seen very few business that actually live them completely, from design of product to the people they recruit.
The customer doesn’t come first
We call ourselves a customer-centric organisation, but I think the customer actually doesn’t come first in our business. What comes first in our business is people in the organisation. If we don’t have people in the organisation who truly understand what Kikki.K is all about, who absolutely are committed to it, then you’ll never deliver that through the whole organisation. So people are absolutely key to our business.
Systems are also hugely important. This is, again, something that resonated well with me. When I first got into retail, and then ran my first store, and then got into regional management, I remember going into multi-site management and doing all these store visits, and I thought, ‘Wow, they all do different things. It’s complete chaos out there!’. What you have to do is put really robust systems into an organisation. It’s partly because kikki.K is an organisational company that they think a lot about organisation. We systemise absolutely everything that we do.
Great brands are not about listening to the customer, because generally the customer doesn’t know what they don’t know. It’s about not listening to the customer to that nth degree; it’s understanding your customer and the things that are going to get them excited.
We have four types of stores. We have our studio, which our Chadstone store. That’s almost triple the size of any store that we have, with the exception up in Covent Gardens. We bought that store so we could play with it, basically. It’s at the scale where we could do lots of things. It’s about creating an environment which is innovative and exciting. It’s a focus in the business of testing and learning, so we’ve got a sort of blank sheet of paper. And if you looked at our key strategy things, we have three, and you can see Chadstone is our seed strategy, along with digital. Basically, we focus all of our attention on Chadstone. We test there. We only test there, though it can be rolled out to many stores, to make sure that we’ve got commercial use of that investment.
We have boutiques – that’s our driving engine room of our stores. We have about 80 of those, different types around the world. We’ve developed this concept of kiosks and concessions. What we’ve noticed, in our business, and it’s the same for many businesses that are gift-giving, is there are certain times of the year where sales just peak. So in Australia we make all our money in a 10-week period around Christmas. The problem, our stores are only so big. We think kiosks is the opportunity, really, to get huge growth, at that peak – to the point where we’ll just pop up and pop out. Take the money, don’t put fixed cost in, take our sales, profit, full margin, close, no fixed costs. So really trying to understand our customer, and then understanding the peaks, and how to maximise our sales. Pop-ups are really interesting. I think we’ve used those very effectively.
The final thing, and probably actually the most exciting thing I love about this brand is its concept of workshops. We have habit workshops. We have happiness workshops. In the UK, they have gone off. Even better than than Australia. Part of that selling process that our staff go through is to introduce these workshops. It’s education, basically. Help our consumer really lead a better life, and deliver on our purpose, which is to help them do that. This is our single most untapped opportunity.
I can see us being a subscription model, digital. In the last two years we’ve had four million customers do YouTube videos on our behalf, with our product. If I could give them the ability to come online and do subscription workshops, I think there’s an incredible opportunity to really deliver our purpose, globally. That’s a great channel that I think fits perfectly with our brand and gives you a whole new way of talking to consumers.
Our online business has grown by 700 per cent over the last few months. We trade in 143 countries online, growing by the day. We have 737,000 people on our database active, 1.4 million in total. To put 737,000 put in context, that’s roughly the same as Country Road in Britain has as active members. We’re a tiny business with 71 successful stores. We have another 750,000, could be the same customers, on social.
Strong company culture
Another really important thing, for a tiny little business, we were fifth in the Great Places To Work survey. Our brand and purpose stretches across our whole organisation. On a Tuesday our whole organisation gets together and we talk about things that they’ve done to deliver on our team code in the previous week, which is a combination of having fun, innovation, systemising. So we’ve go this whole system of actually driving some engagement throughout the organisation.
We’re on journey. We’re a small business. You can see I’m kind of passionate about this thing. We actually think we can have 2700 stores in the world. That’s our belief. We’ve had work done by an external agency that analysed our consumer demographic, and we think that we can get to 2700. Our plan is to get to about 330 stores in the next three and a half years. We currently have 80.
For a full wrap-up of the 2016 Westfield World Retail Study Tour, keep an eye out of the August 2016 issue of Inside Retail Magazine.