the Regency Café
Regency Street, Pimlico
one of London’s most loved cafes
In this exemplar we discuss a London institution and the star of a number of movies. Although we tend to think of fine dining as example of great hospitality retailing – we should keep in mind that a product can also be positioned on the basis of quality at a lower price due to minimal augmentation.
We decided to find a nice little café and have breakfast rather than have breakfast at the hotel. Our goal was – to find somewhere nice and typically British – after all the British have made breakfast ‘the most important meal of the day’ and we both enjoy a good cup of tea and people watching. Our reasoning was that hotel breakfasts at big-named hotels tend to be the same everywhere and not typical of the country.
As we walked through the streets of Westminster we admired the colourful window boxes overflowing with geraniums, fuchsias, petunias, cyclamen, salvias, begonias, calibrachoas, verbenas and a host of foliage plants. Anna and I are keen gardeners and we were envious of the beautiful displays in both the window boxes and the garden beds.
We approached a lady who was walking towards us and asked if she knew a good café. She was French, which was a good sign when asking advice on food – she said “walk 200 metres in that direction and you will find a lovely Café”. Little did we know when we set out that morning that we would stumble upon one of London’s most loved cafes – The Regency Café in Regency Street, Pimlico.
We had five days in London, and as an indicator of our enthusiasm, we ate there 3 times – twice for breakfast and once for a quick and simple evening meal before we went to a show.
The Regency Café began in 1946 by an Italian brother and a sister; they retired in 1986; the present owners are Claudia and Marco are children of the original owners – they are cousins. They have also kept the product value proposition, established by their parents 70 years ago, pretty much intact.
A delightful couple, Nadia and John, live nearby and eat at the Regency twice a day – six days a week, they consider the owners, staff, and other customers as family and friends; they said that it is nice to have a place that is of consistent high quality, where the prices reflect value and whilst everything else in the world has changed their favourite café has remained the same. Nadia stated that “she is not known for her cooking and even if she could cook it is unlikely she could prepare a meal like this for the prices they charge”. She then points to the wall and a black and white picture of herself. The picture, hung by the owners, was taken when Lieutenant Nadia Barclay was in the Army in 1942 – she was an entertainer in the British Armed Forces. Nadia says “that it is not luck that makes The Regency successful but hard work – “watch the way they work and you will see how organized they are and if they are not cooking and serving they are cleaning. You will not find a speck of dirt anywhere.” Nadia tells me that the décor is special, so special that several movies scenes have been shot in The Regency, and she adds it has also appeared as the background in a number of high fashion shoots.
A regular diner, with typical English humour and an accent straight from the east-end said that if you look up the meaning of the word consistency in the Oxford Dictionary it would say “The Regency Café”. He then added “why change it – if it ain’t broken …” which, incidentally, is a comment echoed by a hospitality journalist and by Claudia’s husband Alistair. Another diner described the décor as nostalgic and authentic – the checked café curtains, the tiled walls, the Formica topped tables, the condiments arranged on each table, the seemingly unrelated photographs on the walls all come together to create the right atmosphere.
Another group of diners told me that The Regency Café has helped them to maintain their friendships – when they used to work together they met every Friday for breakfast and although they no longer work together they still regularly meet for breakfast – “it is always good value and you know what to expect”.
a great example of knowing your customer and providing a unique value proposition
In this exemplar we explore a retailer that is hard to categorise. Some businesses stand out from the crowd Mayther on Horseferry Rd in London stands out for quality of presentation & for customer service.
Often you will hear a business owner say – ‘I want to provide a great customer experience’. And most times you just smile back and say ‘I am sure you do – well done’.
Other times you witness a business and it just stands out from the crowd.
Such was the case when I went exploring the shops on Horseferry Road in London. Usually, when you look at a shop you can easily spot the type of shop – a shoe shop, a butchers, and the like, but as we walked past I spotted a shop and thought ‘now this is a beautiful shop – what type of shop is it?’ The signage was simple and elegant; black letters Mayther – nothing more.
I had to walk in. A nod, from the shop owner acknowledged my presence. The shop was immaculate and the goods were arranged in an order that only the fussiest of people would have the motivation to initially undertake and then constantly maintain.
I also noticed a similarity with the men’s clothing section of Fortnum and Mason in that some of the display tables were round and had plenty of space. In this shop, other display tables were rectangular and the positioning of the round and rectangular display tables created a flow, subtly directing customer movement, not like the annoying enter-exit sheep pen formula of some shops. Nor was the cash register at the front of the shop – it was at the back; behind the cash register I noticed a large traditional clock, I thought that is clever; people naturally glance at clocks and this clock was positioned to catch their eye and help shoppers to locate the cash register and, I guess, allowed them to manage their time.
There were books, but this was not a book store, there were pens and moleskin notebooks but this was not a stationery store, there were greeting cards but it was a little more tasteful than most greeting card stores – for one thing the cards were at nice viewing height – nothing too low nothing too high, there were gifts but this was not a gift store. There were teddy bears and cloth dolls the kind you would give to a friend who just had a baby. There was a good selection of wrapping paper and gift bags and boxes.
As I lurked around I observed a lady, late thirties elegantly dressed with an Aspinal of London hand bag, select a card and present it at the cash register, she smiled, the owner smiled and she politely said it is ‘for a friend’s birthday, I hope she likes it’. The owner looked at the card for a second or two, and said ‘I am sure she will’ – ‘would you like a stamp?’ Now this is not a post-office either. ‘Oh yes’, said the lady, ‘that would save me a visit to the post-office’ – I sensed she mentally calculated the saving in time. The shop owner gave her a stamp, picked up on the fact that she wanted to complete this task ASAP, and offered a LAMY pen ‘Do you want to use this to complete the card?’ ‘What a good idea’, said the Lady, with a smile. She paid for her purchase and moved away to an area and filled in the card, when she returned the pen, she politely said that ‘this is nice pen it has a nice feel’. The owner smiled and took the pen – he said ‘thank you’. She said ‘thank you’, she smiled and walked out of the shop ready to post the birthday card to her friend. I was impressed he did not attempt to sell the pen or prattle on about his range of pens … this was sales influenced by the marketing philosophy.
The owner had focused on brand building rather than a short-term sale.
I then introduced myself to the shop owner, his name is Trevor, I complimented him on his shop and apologized for eavesdropping – he smiled, I told him about my project, and asked if it would be OK if I returned the next day when he wasn’t as busy and have a chat. He invited me to return.
I have always found that people who love business, understand the mechanics of a sale, and appreciate the theatre of business find it a great compliment when others notice the strategy that has gone into creating outstanding service quality and a great customer experience. He thought it interesting that I had recognized his process, and that through quality service he had enhanced the customer experience and most likely turned a first time customer into a repeat customer. This deliberate cultivating of a customer is referred to as ‘populating and managing the salespipeline’.
Just then a lady and a gentleman came to the counter and the gentleman said “we are buying a gift for a female colleague who is leaving us; a few years ago I bought a nice pen from this shop, it was really well appreciated, and we are looking for something similar”. Trevor, guides them to the display cabinets and after a few questions suggests a Caran D’Ache pen. The lady handles the pen, she now appears to have greater involvement in the decision, and she makes a selection – the gentleman agrees and says ‘I think she will like that pen’. Trevor, has said very little, he takes the pen polishes it with a cloth and places it in its box. He then asks ‘which gift wrapping paper do you prefer’, the lady, a little surprised, thanks him and selects the wrapping paper, Trevor proceeds to wrap the pen box with a grace that, has to be seen, as the pen is wrapped, the lady walks over and selects a greeting card. The gentleman hands over his credit card [I suspect a corporate credit card] – the exchange is completed, they walk from the shop. Trevor smiles at me; he knows that I appreciate a beautiful theatrical production and a win-win-win-win for all concerned.
When these customers entered his store – did he spot the quality of their clothing, their shoes, her hand bag, their overcoats, his IWC watch that he glanced at, that she was a few years younger but not his daughter or a younger wife, that they had maintained a respectful distance, therefore they were colleagues, that, initially, he led and then allowed her to take over the purchase but he gently directed the price – perhaps to ensure that an appropriate amount was spent. That, perhaps, he was keen to maintain ‘face’ when buying this gift. Of course Trevor would have seen all of this – this would have been as natural as breathing. He did something else – he had the experience to know what brand of pen would be appropriate and then allowed them to buy the pen. What I mean is that someone else would have tried to sell them a pen.
The next day I returned to Mayther and he asks me where else I have been and I mention that I have been from The Regency to The Ritz, an odd combination and he laughed, he knew both. He tells me he is a regular customer at The Regency and about his observations of the café. We return to the topic of his shop and Trevor mentions that he has an apartment in the area so he was familiar with the area before he opened the shop; he thought it would complement his other shops, when he first saw the shop he looked at the empty shop for five minutes and could then see in his mind’s eye the completed shop, the type of goods it would stock, the layout, and the atmosphere he felt it would need.
I don’t know the Westminster area like Trevor; nor do I have his experience in this type of business, after all he has a chain of 10 stores in selected locations in England, nevertheless, it is natural for a marketing person to undertake an environmental scan. Prior to my second visit I walked around the area I took photographs and recognised that his shop was surrounded by office buildings and many of the offices appeared to be the head offices for multi-national organisations. I noticed a young lady and man in a small park sharing lunch I asked them if they worked in the area, they did, we had a little chat as they left I asked if it was OK to take their photograph as they walked back to their work, they laughed and said that would be fine and held hands.
Trevor and I discussed that offices suggest office workers, in the Westminster area of London there are tens of thousands of office workers;, and that means all the life events that happen in any office, [birthdays, romances, engagements, weddings, divorces, farewells, get wells, thank you, well done, all happen around this shop. There are also a number of special days; such as Valentine’s day, Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day, Father’s day, Christmas, New Years etc] that are celebrated each year. I concluded, that this was a shop that did not fit within an existing category; instead it belonged in its own category. The shop was as a consequence of analyzing the needs of the people who worked in the surrounding offices and their need to belong and to celebrate the events that happen in their colleague’s lives – to be part of a community.
Some people need categories and if I had to give one it would be as a boutique gift and card shop but categories can set parameters, can create limitations not just in the thinking of the management and staff but also in the customer’s mind. This highlights the very basis of marketing – that marketing starts with understanding the needs and wants of the customer – what are the needs and wants of the people you will serve. NOT – how do I create a shop that will fit in a category. Mayther, Westminster is great example of creating its own category – marketing practitioners refer to this as ‘blue ocean’.
I want to revisit something Trevor mentioned and I have reflected on this comment a number of times. He may have seen his shop unfold in front of him in five minutes and it could be misinterpreted that it was a quick decision; however, there was forty years of retail experience in those five minutes.
My experience with successful business people like Trevor, is that their involvement with their business is such that they are often conducting an ongoing and evolving marketing audit and working a dynamic marketing plan. It is like they are constantly auditing the situational factors in which they operate – constantly collecting information about the customer, his organisation, the market, and the products —- and then continually up-dating the marketing action plans.
In the e-book we talk about research as being as needed marketing research and everyday marketing research. In larger organisations, naturally, this is a more formal and documented process. Of course, there are the day to day conversations between management about how changes in the marketplace may require tactics to be adjusted. However, in my observations business people like Trevor have a philosophy that guides a unique product value proposition and this guides a perpetual marketing plan that adjusts to the seasonal factors and changing situational factors. I would therefore suggest that while some businesses are smaller and agile like a jazz band others are larger and more disciplined and like a 120 piece orchestra.
Do you believe that by understanding the events that happen in any office, Trevor has created a unique value proposition? Explain your position.
How important are the augmented services that Trevor delivers to his ‘time-poor’ customers? Explain your thoughts.
Do you feel that Trevor has mentally blueprinted a number of scenarios? Explain your thoughts.
Burlington Arcade – London’s oldest arcade – a mix of tradition & today’s fashion
The Burlington arcade in London occupies a prestigious place in retail history, today this arcade remains a premier retail shopping destination and the location of some of the world’s great retailers.
Burlington arcade, not far from Fortnam & Mason on Piccadilly Rd is one of the iconic retail precincts in London. The construction of Burlington Arcade is often considered a seminal event in the evolution of marketing and the history of retailing as it marked a major advancement in both shopkeeper and shopper comfort.
Burlington Arcade marks the beginning of a 50 year period where shopping arcades were constructed in many cities and reached a peak with the construction of the Galleria Milano. When constructed, Burlington Arcade provided shoppers and retailers with a sunlit covered street in a safe and secure environment. The arcade had shops on ground level and accommodation on the first floor, today there is no accommodation and many shops have been combined to form larger shops or the first floor is used for offices. It was built in 1819 by Lord Cavendish who owned Burlington House next door, some articles suggest, and the stone carving would stand as testament, that Lord Cavendish had philanthropic reasons, encouraging industrious women to start businesses, others suggest he wanted to improve the tone of the area and reduce litter.
The Burlington Arcade was owned and renovated by the European retail investment group, Meyer Bergman from 2010 until 2018 when it was sold to London business men David and Simon Reuben.
Burlington Arcade and the shops within the arcade are always beautifully presented. To keep such an iconic shopping arcade as one of the best shopping experiences in London must take enormous effort, and I noticed that the entire street floor has been replaced since my last visit [the need to replace it was not because of anything I did – honestly].
On this particular visit stunning posters hung from the rafters to acknowledge 100 years of Vogue Magazine. This relationship between Vogue and Burlington Arcade is a nice collaboration as both are at the pinnacle of fashion. One can only guess how they will celebrate their 200 anniversary in 2019. Maintenance also applies to traditions, the uniformed Beadles are still there. In 1819 when the Arcade opened the London Police had not been established and security and policing was a fragmented, The Beadles of Burlington Arcade were employed for this task – a small police force. One of the Beadles, Kevin, mentioned that both Londoners and visitors loved to stroll through the arcade, taking in the atmosphere, particularly on a wet afternoon. Another nice touch is the shoe shine service, it looks ‘typical London’ and fits the timeless image of Burlington Arcade. It is not uncommon to see someone reading a paper, perhaps contemplating some of the big issues, whilst having their shoes polished, or someone, perhaps a regular customer, thoroughly engaged in the conversation and ‘having a good chin wag’; meanwhile, all of the world walks by and many smile and enjoys the theatre. A walk up the arcade takes you past some stunning shops and it is always heartwarming to experience the art of retailing.
If at the end of the arcade you turn left and then left again you find yourself on Old Bond Street; that way you can return to Piccadilly Street and experience some of the great retailers of the world, Polo Ralph Lauren, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tiffany & Co, Moncler, DYNY, Rolex, Omega, MaxMara, Prada, Bottega Venata, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Prada, Dolce & Gabana, Gucci, Vacheron Constantin, Alexander McQueen, Tod’s & DeBeer’s Diamonds. Along the way you will pass The Royal Arcade, at 28 Old Bond Street, this arcade is architecturally impressive [it had a little cameo in the movie ‘Parent Trap’ when what’s her name and her screen mum were walking through London – Funny enough the background music in the film is ‘Here comes the Sun’].
This, area, if you are a student of retailing or just someone who loves shops is not a quick walk – many of the stores are brand flagship stores. If you enjoy a good shop window then this is a worthwhile visit.
After the success of Burlington Arcade a number of arcades were built around the world. Other London arcades within an easy walk are Piccadilly, Princess, & Royal and they are also worth a visit.
In the buyer decision process we list 8 consumption qualities, consider each quality – nominate the most important [from the target market’s perspective] and explain your thoughts.
fortnum & mason
one of London’s most loved department stores
One of the great retailers of London is Fortnum and Mason. Fortnum’s is a favourite of mine – and in the history of marketing it plays a significant role, it was founded in 1707, initially as a grocery store. Fortnum’s store is in Piccadilly Street, one of the great retail precincts in the world. Fortnum’s is privately owned and has connections to other retailers such as Selfridges, Primark, and food producer Associated British Foods, one of the world’s largest food companies.
So after a nice coffee and a piece of chocolate cake at the Caffé Nero on Piccadilly Stree, Anna and I set off to explore Fortnum and Mason. It is a short walk about 100 metres towards Piccadilly Circus. We began our expedition in Men’s clothing. I complimented the manager on the neatness and quality of the shop and he said that “the idea was to create the feel of a gentleman’s club through the furnishings and props – to give a sense of space to allow people to browse and look across the room”. To achieve this theatre I identified model ships, model boats, globes of the world, travel trunks, and paintings of ships. The furnishings were quality and the display tables were round with carved wooden legs the display tables had after shaves, and shaving equipment, and lotions. More expensive items such as cuff-links, pens, wallets, and more expensive brief cases were kept in glass display cabinets. There were leather sofas with travel trunks as coffee tables; a copy of The Times was available and opened at the business page. The lighting was bright, spotlights positioned to illuminate the goods and chandeliers enhanced the mood and quality feel. Unlike the many retailers, who try to block out the outside world, Fortnum’s made a feature of the clear-glassed sash windows that brought glimpses of London inside the store. Several shoppers, I cautiously presume to be visitors to London because the sported daypacks, paused to look out to the streets below. Between the windows are display cabinets for men’s clothing, leather briefcases, and hats. The staff smiled and welcomed you into their store, the staff I encountered were obviously skilled and provided service rather than attempting to make a quick sale.
The food section had its own style and like men’s clothing section was carefully designed. We noted how in the heavy traffic areas, and where cleanliness was important; for example where the meat and cheese sections, the floors had ceramic tiles, whereas, other areas had carpet. We noted the cleanliness of the carpet, and, unlike a well-known Australian department store, there were no cracked tiles and no duct tape holding the carpet together. I complemented a staff member on the cleanliness and she thanked me and then proudly mentioned that a team of people worked continually to keep the shop in this condition. We noted the framed prints, and the wooden model pagoda and peony rose flower arrangements to set the mood in the tea section. The confectionary section had a large antique clock and big glass bowls; the florist had flowers woven into the staircase balustrade – the staircase is a pleasing feature of the building. The area between the food and the liquor store had a variety of picnic baskets – Fortnum’s are renowned for their picnic hampers. As you would now expect, the lighting illuminated the products and set the appropriate mood. The staff had black suits, white shirts, a Fortnum and Mason coloured tie, and a name badge. We intentionally observed how the staff greeted customers. Store staff asked “may I help you” or “may I assist you”. In the 90 minutes we were in the store we were greeted [sometimes just a smile] by staff 22 times – moments of truth.
A young female assistant in the liquor section asked if I was on holiday and I said that I was in London for a few days before heading to Scotland and that I would be visiting Islay to look at the whisky distilleries. I also mentioned that I knew very little about whisky, that I was interested in products and provenance and Islay was of interest. She mentioned that they have a good collection of Islay whiskies, pointed out where they were located. About 5 minutes later she approached me and asked if I wish to speak with her colleague – a whiskey expert. As I was leaving she smiled and said “I hope you enjoy your holiday in Scotland”.
We left Fortnum’s; Anna mentioned she was really impressed, she said “all the time we were in the shop, not one shop assistant handled a mobile phone – everyone smiled and made me feel welcome”.
It is also worth noting that the attention to detail and the consistent feel that runs through the shop on Piccadilly Street runs through their e-shop, I recommend you go to www.fortnumandmason.com
one of London’s great retail experiences
It was starting to rain quite heavily and I was getting bored by the ‘everyday’ shops – the types of shops that are in every main street in every city, so I hailed a cab and went at Harrods.
It is a strange thing, peoples’ reaction to Harrods, even when you talk with friends, people that you think you know well, it is hard to anticipate their attitudes. I reviewed 100 comments from two social media sites; the comments on social media are also hard to interpret; reviewers tend to love or hate Harrods, and it is sometimes hard to imagine that the reviewers visited the same store, that there are not two completely different Harrods, but, you can only ever visit one – one glamorous – one tacky.
It is also hard to uncover the reviewers intentions, were they at Harrods – as if it was a tourist attraction and not a department store, some social media sites list it as an attraction, somewhere for tourists to tick off their list of ‘must do’ London attractions, somewhere that is free and out of the rain, worth a look, catch up on social media [Harrods has wifi on reviewer commented], a better place to take a ‘selfie’ than a lace museum. However, many reviewers describe as if it was a museum – some describe it as a museum to fashion others like a museum of over-consumption. Some liken Harrods to a tacky theme-park and questioned the time it took to see the entire attraction and suggested a map – perhaps like Disneyland.
It is also hard to determine whether the reviewers actually bought something – whether they were in fact a ‘customer’ of Harrods, when you look at a review of a hotel, an airline, a restaurant, you are pretty confident that an exchange has taken place – but not with Harrods. So when I look at the reviews I have to ask, is this a customer or a tourist, perhaps a young tourist on a tight budget – LOL and all that, who visited the store and never had any intention of buying anything? Has this reviewer earned the right to comment – as a customer? Is this a customer or a tourist – part of the moving throng of people. There were many ‘self absorbed’ posts that caught my attention. One chap thought it unfair that he should be asked not to take a photograph, his reasoning was that other ‘museums’ let you – why don’t Harrods?
Some tourists may feel a little guilty at the free admission charge to ‘Harrods Museum’ and buy a little Harrods souvenir, I guess some buy a green Harrods bag to take home, perhaps some go to their local supermarket with their Harrods bag and pretend that they are a ‘posh’ Harrods customer.
A couple I spoke with are on their ‘trip of a life-time’ – their first trip to London – ‘we have only ever been to Bali; haven’t we Jack’. They have spent their life raising their children, paying school fees, paying off a mortgage, and saving for this trip –. Such tourists will consider each purchase carefully, on their holiday they will be as frugal as they can, often, so that they have enough money to buy gifts for those they care about. They will worry as the approach the airport check-in that their bags are overweight – but it will not be shopping for themselves that adds the extra weight. Their children and grandchildren will be at the airport to welcome them home, the grandchildren will create welcome home cards and may even make a banner. This will be a joyous reunion. They will soon gather at home and will chat non-stop about their adventures; the grandmother will correct the grandfather on some minor detail, the presents will be given out and a purse at 24 pounds will seem so very special to their granddaughter – and it is special especially when it bought with love. The next day she will take it to school and show her teacher and classmates.
For these people there are Harrods gifts that are quite reasonable and an ideal gift. I just wonder if Harrods staff can see past the annoying people wearing plimsols with diamanté cats, who wear Beats headphones in the store, sport a ‘hello kitty’ daypack, and have a routine of walk-stop-selfie, walk-stop-selfie a thousand times a day or the boys with their lacquered hair, cargo pants, T-shirts, fleecy jackets that are tied around their waists, baseball caps facing backwards, trekking boots, and large rucksack that swing and hit displays and passers-by, oblivious, the boys laugh an push and carry on as if they are in a high school playground and not a place of business. Let’s be clear some people in Harrods are not shoppers: they are tourists and they reduce the service quality and customer experience of actual customers and they must certainly drain the enthusiasm of Harrods staff.
Many reviewers separate the Harrods Food Hall from the rest of the department store. Many are impressed by the variety, the quantity, the presentation, others question why they sell food in the Food Hall but don’t provide a free setting to consume it, others talk about the prices and compare Harrods pricing with M&S food courts and the like. Sometimes reviewers compare it with something in their own country, almost, as if it is patriotic to find fault with Harrods. Another aspect of the reviews, and this is speculative, however, I sense that some people are attempting to position themselves through their reviews – to elevate themselves by belittling Harrods – I hope they get their review merit badges.
What do I think about Harrods? Well, I chose to go there for the sixth time in 30 years. Once again I marveled at the Food Hall, the artistry in the presentations, particularly the confectionary and the pastries –I saw food that I have never seen before. For the record, I had an excellent Margherita Pizza at the Pizzeria and we bought a small selection of chocolates, it was a fair exchange. When I am away from home I realize that it is more expensive than staying home and I guess like most people I have to be careful, particularly if it is a long trip. But, I like a little treat now and again – especially a little treat somewhere different – Harrods can provide a epistemic experience that is reasonably priced – if you look.
I found there are some social media takeaways for marketing practitioner, people feel as if they have the right to comment, and they spend some time crafting their words to add emphasis, they may have motives that are questionable, sometimes other frustrations creep in. Sometimes a business attracts someone from outside their target market and this is a lose-lose situation. Non-customer can impact on other customers so control is needed. Finally, it is hard to satisfy someone who is way outside the target market and was not considered when the product was first crafted.
The Ritz London
The story of high tea at The Ritz London starts many years ago on one of our visits to England. We were based at the house of a good friend, who lived at the time in Dulwich, a little way out of London, most of our time on this trip was spent touring England in a clockwise direction. We picked up out hire car at Heathrow then to Brighton, Arundal, Lymington, Lyme Regis, Clovelly, Tintagel, Boscastle, Taunton, Bath, Gloucester, and Oxford. And along the way we zigzagged in and out to villages that had taken our fancy, had lots of pub lunches stayed in a few nice hotels but mainly in bed and breakfast accommodation. When we came back we dropped our hire car of a mile or so from where we were staying the day before we were to leave England.
On this particular visit we had not spent much time in London and we had not travelled on the London Underground. We reasoned that it seemed a pity to be so close to the sights of London and not have had a quick look around; we felt that we should kill a few birds with the one stone by catching a Cab into London and then catching the Tube to Heathrow Airport and then our flight back to Australia which left later that evening. Our Cabbie advised us that it would be just as cheap to go straight to Heathrow. I mentioned that that would be true, and I thanked him for his concern and then mentioned that we were more interested in having a London Experience and we had time to kill and he immediately entered the spirit of the adventure by giving us a running commentary, most of which I believed was made up as we went along – but we appreciated his sense of humour and I think he appreciated a trip that was a little out of the ordinary. Some time into the trip he changed directions and decided that we could add a little sparkle to our adventure by dropping us off at The Ritz London, he explained that we could catch the tube to Heathrow at Green Park Station a few metres away – we agreed. So we pulled up at The Ritz London, a doorman assists us, our Cabbie waves us goodbye and good luck, and whilst Anna has a look around inside the hotel I mind the bags. She comes back after 10 minutes and announces that ‘one day we will have to have high tea at The Ritz’ we had a photograph with the doorman and scampered off to the Green Park Tube Station, on the tube we laughed at our silliness – but it was the kind of crazy thing you do when you are on holiday from being your serious self.
Now the next time we were in London we suggested the idea to some friends who were appalled by our extravagant money wasting idea – and vehemently vetoed the idea – so we missed out on that trip – for some time I wished we had just said goodbye and good luck and gone by ourselves.
Several years pass and The Ritz London story gets a little more involved but I will press on, even at the risk of losing most readers. When this visit was being planned I had some large trees in my garden that needed attention partly before winter and partly before I could leave our house with any peace of mind. I got a quote from a tree lopper, which was several thousand dollars. Anna, thinking of safety, wanted to employ the tree lopper but I enjoy working in the garden and wanted to do task myself – and I am known for my stubbornness.
My neighbor, Ryan, a practical ‘salt of the earth’ kind of guy thought I was mad, was also concerned for my safety, but, nevertheless, brought me a large industrial extension ladder from his work and I bought a new chainsaw and a mulching machine and little bit by little bit I cut down the trees. Anna got into the spirit of it and helped, she dragged the branches to large to mulch and stacked them on our road verge for the annual collection by our local council. She was pretty pleased with herself and enjoyed the compliments from neighbours on the neatness of her stack. Forever the school teacher, she also began comparing stacks in the neighbourhood and as we would drive past homes would announce marks out of 10 and give comments like ‘should try harder’ ‘should apply more effort’ ‘should work on their neatness’.
You may ask what changed her mind – well – I promised that if we saved the money on the tree lopping we could spend it on high tea at The Ritz London. Brilliant – I know: Mischevious – Perhaps.
So after our visit to Fortnum’s we went back to the Double Tree Hotel and then dressed up for our High Tea. We then caught a Cab to The Ritz London; this time we did not blush when the doorman opened our Cab door. We met a lovely couple outside The Ritz London who were also treating themselves; it was their wedding anniversary and announced that they have travelled ‘all the way from Norfolk’ and had always wanted to have high tea at The Ritz London – their enthusiasm was a pleasure to be part of. They told us that the previous evening they had been to a musical – Beautiful: The Carol King Story. They both in unison commented that ‘if you are a fan of Carole King it is a must’ – and also that Carole King would have a concert in London’s Hyde Park on Sunday the 3rd of July at 2:00pm [we were to leave the day before]. So I knew they were big Carole King fans. Carole King, for those who may not be aware of her, was big twice, once in the early 60s, when she and her husband [Goffin and King], wrote a number of hit songs for other artists, this was before I was conscious of music and then in 1971, when I was 16 and into music, she released her album Tapestry. This album won countless awards and is one of the top selling albums of all time. I have purchased this album a number of times in vinyl, cassette tape, CD and a couple of songs through Itunes – it would be fair to say that I would list Tapestry in my top 20 favourite albums. So we agreed to photograph the Carol King fans outside the entrance to The Ritz London and they agreed to photograph us – we then went our separate ways. I also made a mental note to book tickets for an evening performance. Then we walked up the stairs, savoured the atmosphere, and lounged around the main foyer and waited for our session of high tea to begin. Now, I have to emphasise this was just a great experience and really well worth the money, time, and effort. And if we were still in touch with the penny pinchers – I would give it to them in no uncertain terms.
I am very fortunate, that Anna is an extremely good cook and my mother-in-law is an exceptional cook; so dinning out has to be really something special to impress me. However, just seeing Anna’s face when we were at The Ritz London was priceless. Regarding the tree lopping – which was really more about creating a bit of fun out of a hard job, I should say I always had the intention of treating her to high tea [although the Scots have a reputation for being frugal they are really quite generous]. Sometimes you just have to treat yourself and create events to celebrate life and memories to look back on.
I am sure in the course of their day the staff see many celebrates, presidents, and sports stars; so let’s be honest a marketing academic and a school teacher are not that special, however, the staff at The Ritz London didn’t show any status discrimination and really did pamper Anna and I.
According to Jackie McDevitt, Public Relations Manager of The Ritz London, ‘the hotel has been regarded as one of the great hotels of the world since it was founded in 1906; in that time it has become the pinnacle of luxury, elegance, style, and service quality; it is now regarded as the benchmark for other luxury hotels; throughout its history it has hosted royalty, aristocracy, the stars of stage and screen, discerning guests’, and I add, ordinary folk who wanted an extraordinary experience. For Anna and I the Ritz lived up to and exceeded our expectations.
The Ritz London meant something to Anna and I, just as it did to the couple from Norfolk; we will, and I guess they will, remember the experience forever and from time to time we will tell our friends. Anna’s enthusiasm motivated her to post her comments on Facebook that night and with a hint of bragging – which is out of character.
Now I am going to mention something that may seem unusual, I can recall the taxi trip to The Ritz London all those years ago, I can recall the taxi ride to The Ritz London on the evening of our high tea, however, for the life of me I cannot recall the taxi ride to the Double Tree after we left The Ritz London. I can recall that later that night, back at the Double Tree, we went online and booked the tickets to Beautiful: The Carole King Story.
From a marketing perspective we can see that both The Ritz London and Beautiful: the Carole King Story had a similar process. Marketers often use the initialism AIDA to describe the process that leads a consumer entering the buyer decision process.
If you are a marketing practitioner you may be familiar with AIDA – The general idea is to craft communication strategies and tactics that generate awareness, interest, desire and motivate action. These are a series of communication steps that vary according to the COMP factors.
Let me explain: we were aware of The Ritz London when our Cabbie playfully dropped us off there many years ago, we had our interest heightened by the fact that it was high on our Cabbies hierarchy of important places, a brief look inside increased our desire and our desire was reinforced and enhanced through seeing The Ritz London featured on the British television drama Downton Abbey and a few movies, furthermore, we had our desire enhanced because we wanted to be different to the penny pinchers and to be similar to friends who had been there and spoke in glowing terms. Then when the occasion presented itself we were motivated to take action by booking online some months before our visit.
We were also aware of Carole King and her music, we were not aware until the couple from Norfolk informed us that such a musical existed, their enthusiasm heightened our interest and seeing other reviews online enhanced our desire and motivated us to book online for the following evening. Whilst the length of time was quite different the steps were similar and essentially we responded to a narrative that was generated by a quality performance, value for money, and customer satisfaction.
Earlier we introduced the idea of business as theatre, however, it needs to be emphasized that the theatre created by the Regency Café, Fortnum and Mason and The Ritz London Hotel are all quite different. This is a critical point, all three businesses are successful and in part this is due to each organisation crafting their own unique theatre according to the customers they serve, the organisation’s objectives, the marketplace in which the customers and organisations operate and the nature of the products that meet the core, expected, and augmenteted needs of customers [think COMP].
When consumers search for products they seek epistemic qualities; as consumers we tend to think of products as goods and we tend to ignore that products are a mix of goods, services, ideas, experience, people, and places. Therefore, consumers seek epistemic qualities when the product is experience dominant or the experience is a determinant component. Clearly, the experience offered by each organisation is quite different; we could assume they have nothing in common, however, the takeaway from this discussion is that all marketing practitioners must carefully identify, analyse and consider the situation factors that influence their decisions and craft appropriate strategies. When, for example, marketing practitioners identify, analyse, and consider, the needs of their customers they must produce a detailed blueprint of the customer experience and then craft their front-stage performance and the back-stage activities that will facilitate and support the performance.
the most photographed crossing in the world
Visiting the Abbey Rd cross walk had been on my bucket list for a very long time, however, on my many visits to London I just forgot only to remeber as I was leaving – strange. When I was about 15-16 years old, the songs from the Beatles and the Abbey Road album were popular, and there was a time when we would gather and listen to the album over and over again.
The fact was that we listened to the Beatles songs so much that for a long time I didn’t even play their music. Then with the passing of time I began to enjoy the Beatles music again, but in a nostalgic way, when I hear some of the songs I remember events, experiences and sometimes see the faces of good friends and people I know – really nice people that somehow I have lost touch with.
When planning this particular trip I thought, it is about time I went to Abbey Road .
I had an idea that it would be nice if I brought my old vinyl Abbey Road album with me. I know this is a bit unusual. A friend said I was making a ‘pilgrimage’ and was like a Catholic who would take their rosary beads with them to get them ‘blessed’. I reasoned that the album hadn’t seen much action in the last 40 years anyway, I no longer have a vinyl record player and never will – although I know a few people who still hang onto the tradition of playing vinyl records.
Bringing the album could have been a nice little ‘money spinner’ as a number of people asked if they could borrow it to take a selfie and/or a photo. When they saw the age some asked if it a first edition?
I lingered at the crossing mainly observing – people came and went, some people who were there when we arrived were still there when we left. From a consumer behaviour perspective it was extremely interesting talking to the visitors; finding out where people had travelled from and why.
There was an Australian family, mum, dad and children in their teens, the children going through the motions to please their dad. The dad trying to pass on his excitement – but it wasn’t cutting through. He told me their next stop was Lord’s Cricket ground – I asked the son if he liked cricket and he said ‘not particularly’.
Another group, were in late teens, on vacation from the US, they were music students, a couple of them had Beatle T-shirt – it was like a flashback to the sixties.
There were four music ‘tragics’ in their early twenties – who were playing Beatles songs; it surprised me that they would see the Beatles as ‘their’ music – one of them walked across the crosswalk in bare feet. There were also people who were there simply because they were travelling with someone and it meant something to the person they were travelling with and they got into it to varying degrees.
There was an overexcited Spanish speaking man in his 50s, whose poor partner had to take what seemed like a thousand photos on his iphone and he kept coming back and checking to see if she had it just right and then he would try again and again and again – often disrupting the traffic and other visitor photographs – he was totally self-absorbed. I guess for the delivery-drivers on tight schedules the Abbey Road crossing could be a delay and somewhere to be avoided – what could be sacred to some could be profane to others.
Some grandparents from Canada were telling their families about what the Beatles meant to them, and about the Beatles phenomenon. The family all got into it; the grandson and granddaughter took photos with my album, their father thanked me, and when I placed my album on the crossing for a photo the grandchildren joined in and took some photos of it – they thought it cool – the event was posted on social media at the speed of light and with an enthusiasm that made their grandfather so happy – I can still see his face with the yellow light of the crossing behind him.
I visited the Abbey Road studio shop but it was more out of curiosity than to purchase something – really – I wanted to walk down a path that the Beatles had once walked down – I read that Abbey Road was the last time the Beatles recorded together as one group.
We tend to think of sacred sites as religious sites – to many the crossing at Abbey Road is sacred – I am glad I went and paid homage. The sun came out [there is a song there] and I walked to the St John’s Wood tube station.
This is a very pleasant area of London and the spring gardens were looking their best.
film inspired tourism creates attention, interest, desire, and action
After visiting the Abbey Road crosswalk we had some time on our hands and decided to visit Portobello Road, which runs through Notting Hill. We caught the tube to Notting Hill Gate tube station. If Abbey Road was more for me then this exploration of shops in Portobello Road was more for Anna. Some may be familiar with Portobello Road from Disney’s Bedknob and Broomsticks movie, released in 1971; it is a perennial favourite of children you may even know the lyrics … Portobello Road, Portobello Road, Street where the riches of ages are stowed, anything and everything a chap can unload, is sold off the barrow in Portobello road. You’ll find what you want in the Portobello road.
We had a coffee and a cake at the Farm Girl Café and then descended down the hill to explore the Portobello Road shops and markets. We wandered through Alice’s antique shop looked at the signs, and crockery, and stuff, discovered a number of well presented stores.
Notting Hill is also the name of a romantic comedy featuring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. In the movie, released in 1999, Anna Scott [Julie Roberts] is a film star and enters William Thacker’s [Hugh Grant] travel bookstore, she is recognised by William’s off-sider and Hugh Grant does that ‘trademark’ being awkward with silly faces, a little stuttering, nevertheless, with perfect diction. Later they bump into each other, William spills coffee over her, she goes to his flat to get cleaned up [as superstars do], later rings him and asks him to meet her at The Ritz …. Oh, I forgot to mention that that the movie also features a hapless character named ‘Spike’ [Rhys Ifans] the flatmate who appears on William’s doorstep in his briefs only to be photographed by the paparazzi [who have tracked Anna Scott to William’s flat].
After a little exploring we found the book store that was the inspiration for the Travel Book Co [the bookstore in the movie]. It is a great bookstore and it was easy to see why it was selected. We chatted to the staff who were delightful. They patiently answered my questions. Have you noticed how people who work in bookstore are, generally, very pleasant? We purchased a few postcards. They told us about where we should visit and then gave us directions to the famous blue door of William’s flat. They mentioned that many of the visitors to their bookstore were inspired by the movie and that even after all this time there many references to the movie in Google, which, they mentioned ‘coincidentally commenced in September 1998 around the same time as the movie’. We were not the only film tourists that day nor the only ones that had a selfie in front of the blue door. A little later were asked directions to the Travel Book Co and happily chatted and shared stories.
As we traveled it became apparent that film inspired tourism influences the traveler’s decision making process far more than I initially realised.
We wandered through streets, noticed the number of people, of many ages, who were taking advantage of the weather and riding bicycles to work or to the shops. A little later we found a great ice cream shop, coincidently another Morelli’s [there was another at Covent Gardens], we had an interesting chat with a chap from Zambabwe – he said that Morelli’s has been recognised as the best ice-cream in the world; with 5 generations of ice-cream makers, and was ‘authentic Italian ice-cream’. As a marketer, and an interest in personal selling, I always find it a pleasure to meet a salesperson so passionate about their products, brands, and organisation. Needless to say, we ended up having an ice-cream, and, yes it was most enjoyable. As I enjoy my ice-cream in Portobello Road, I am aware of the importance of the people component of a product and the importance of the service provider’s disposition. From a marketing perspective ‘disposition’ could be thought of as the functional, social, emotional, and spiritual qualities that naturally influence a service provider’s way of thinking, feeling, and acting during a service encounter. Creating a marketing culture requires a great deal of effort.
We then caught a cab and had a quick look at Little Venice, put in on our list for the next time we visit London and went back to our hotel to get read for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Given that this was our last night in London, and after a day of sightseeing, we were quite hungry, we went to The Regency Café. It was still busy but less busy for diner than breakfast, we met Claudia’s husband Alistair, and had a nice chat. Then down into the underground and a tube to Covent Gardens and a fifteen minute walk to the theatre. The musical was better than we expected and we were grateful to the Norfolk couple we met outside the Ritz London.
Within themarketingconcept [e-book] the metaphor of business as theatre is described and this was certainly apparent after a day in Notting Hill and then the musical. After the show we walked down to Trafalgar Square, hoping to catch a cab – but I guess we didn’t try to hard and we soon found ourselves taking a long walk back to our Hotel and taking in some of the key sites of London. It had been a long day and by the time we arrived back at our hotel my feet were aching