Theatre & customization – Active feet

I was recently enthralled by the in store theatre of local Melbourne sports shoe retailer Active Feet. In fact it was much more than theatre. It was service, theatre and attitude. The store is owned and run by podiatrists.

We walked in the store and the first thing the store assistant did was introduce himself, and ask if we’d been in the store before. When we gave the ‘yes’ response and name, he asked to be excused for a few moments and went out the back to check the computer. Upon his return the assistant asked how the flat feet were going, how the particular joggers purchased worked out, and even how boot camp was going. It wasn’t contrived, but I could sense in the tone of voice and body language that this guy cared. I could sense it. All humans can, we can sense people who are faking it.

After this we moved onto the walking machine to assess the feet with some pretty impressive podiatry tools. He then went onto recommend some shoes to try based on the treadmill assessment and a mutual discussion. All of which can be seen in some action shots below.




How many companies have things like databases and valuable customer information that just sits on a computer somewhere and never gets reviewed, let alone used to great value for a returning customer.

Startup lesson: If we are going to collect information for our customers, then maybe we should use it, and not only use it but customize it.

Oh, we bought the shoes there.

Steve – founder

More visual feasts – retail

Here’s some more retail ‘theatre at transaction ‘ – The first is of the Grocery Bar Cafe in Richmond, the second of Haus Frau Cafe in Yarraville. I simply want to eat my food and drink my coffee there. So I do.

Actually – I don’t need to say anything – the pitcures do that for me.

The questions for startup entrepreneurs is this: What visual feasts are we providing our prospective new customers? Are we giving them a visual they just ‘have to’ talk about?

Are you into it?

I’m sure there are examples of people who’ve been successful by simply being good at what they do. But there are more examples of world beaters who are ‘into’ what they do.

I’m into this blog. I love writing it. I did it with as much enthusiasm when 10 people read it each month as I do now when more than 20,000 do.

Some of my favourite entrepreneurs are really into what they do.

Branson loves music & flying.

Trump loves real estate & the deal

Steve Jobs is really into design & aesthetics

Lindsay Fox loves trucks and cars (he even has ‘truck driver’ as the title on his business card!)

Doug Warbrick loves surfing….

Doug and his surfing partner Brian started Ripcurl, the surfing company. They started making surfboards in the late 1960’s and shortly after made some the first surfing wetsuits the world has seen. In fact their first wetsuit was made from a rubber carpet underlay they pulled up from a floor with an old pre world war 2 sewing machine – great bootstrapping. He made the wetsuits so he could endure the harsh Victorian winter and enjoy the best waves of the year down there.

They just kept making really good surfing equipment. Which they also sold, 40 years on Ripcurl is now one of the three dominant companies in the Industry, valued at well over $500 million.

Ripcurl founders & store circa 1970, followed by curent retail outlet

Are you into your job, business or startup, or just passing the days?

The best innovations no less ‘ entrepreneurial success’ comes from people who are really into what they do.

Retail Madness

I took this photo in a local mall in Melbourne on August 9thThe coldest part of winter.

Anyone who lives in or has been to Melbourne knows it’s still very cold until November. Yet the clothing retail chain above already has summer clothes only in the display window. And they’ve already started their winter clothes clearance – in the middle of winter!

The top temperature on said day was 11ºc / 55ºf with snow falls down to 400m.

Here’s the weather forecast for Melbourne for the coming week:

This is retail gone mad – for a few reasons:

They are selling their ‘winter’ stock ‘during winter’ at a 70% discount?

Consumers don’t care about their buying seasons, just what the weather’s like – right now.

Melbourne people don’t care what the weather’s like in Queensland.

People’s lives are too busy to buy clothing 4 months in advance.

They are letting their supply chain get in front of what consumers actually need and want.

No prizes for guessing the store was empty.

If we buy hot soup on cold days, and ice cream on hot days, why should clothing be any different? It’s not. And is less so, as time becomes the finite resource.

If you’re a start up in the retail arena.

Startup blog says: make your range, match the ‘real’ world. You’ll be far ahead of any retail chain.

Shop Front

Would you know what this shop is selling?


I wouldn’t.

Sometimes our shop front, work car, uniform, office, church or website is where the decision is made on whether or not our service is for them.

The good news is, just like a shop window we can:

  • change it if we’ve got it wrong (all of us at some point)
  • use for promotional purposes (Ebay)
  • rotate the message (fashion outlets)
  • keep it clean, defined and single minded (Google)

If our business is in the digital world we have the advantage of a low cost change over.


Start up lesson – make sure people know what you offer the instant they arrive.

Tomorrow’s hero brands

I’m not about to define a brand, I’d be wasting your time as there are plenty of marketing books to do that. I am about to talk about some qualities that many brands used to have, and more importantly the features that tomorrow’s hero brands do have.


function first

reliable consistency


thin product range

you’ll travel to buy it

limited distribution

you found out about it by recommendation

limited if any advertising expenditure

no external branding

you don’t care if people don’t know your using it

often founder defined


An example for me personally is Herringbone shirts. A Sydney based shirt company. Their specialty is shirts. herringbone-shirt.pngherringbone-shirt.png



They’re expensive, but the quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten. Only those who have one would know you’re wearing it. We know the cut, the feel, the fabric and they just sit like quality garments should.

A lot of global brands once fit the above description. Then due to the brand’s own success they simply became ‘corporations’. Once this happens, the rot sets in. They go public, product ranges get expanded, the founder loses control or sells out (as they deserve to), production is outsourced, quality is compromised, distribution is expanded, branding becomes overt and crass, sales targets must be met, prices get cut, customer basses expand, the product adapts to the larger vanilla consumer…. – rinse and repeat. Until their core consumer moves on.

Outrageous commercial success often predicates a brand’s inevitable decline because it is hard to retain the focus that drove the success in the first instance.

What is your – yesterday’s hero brand?

What is your – tomorrow’s hero brand?


We should use these words selling our start up to a first time customer:

‘Let’s do a trial’ 

It might be a small order, even one box. 

It’s a great fear remover. In their mind they’re not really buying it. In reality, nothing is different, except their risk perception is lowered. We’re just confirming that nothing is fixed and it’s Ok to try something new.