Exemplary shopping

Interviewed: Elena Olkhovskaya

Have you ever heard that purchases can be made for free. You come to the store, take everything from the shelves that the eye will fall on, and go happy home. Utopia! They will say it alone, and will be partly right. A fairy tale about a bright future and communism from textbooks. This will be the opinion of others, and also practically true. But in reality - this is the reality that the creator of the original Sample Central store concept, Australian Anthony James, told us about.

Anthony, what started your unusual business?

This is a very interesting question. I have always believed in ideas that sooner or later take over the masses. For many years I worked in large organizations, developing new lines of business in them. For example, at IMB, I was responsible for the global development of e-business, in the McDonalds a conglomerate, for the development and production of Happy Meals around the world, as well as for the company's access to the Internet and so on.

Work in large companies was associated with constant trips to different countries, which helped me to quench another passion of mine - the love of shopping. I am a true shopaholic, in the literal sense of the word.

Going on a trip with one suitcase, I always come back with four. And since I am a person with extensive experience in strategic marketing, I always look at how certain products are being promoted in different countries of the world.

In general, in 2006, when the idea of ​​my new concept was just beginning to take shape in my head, I drew attention to how advertising and marketing campaigns and promotions for the promotion of goods are carried out, and how they differ from each other in different countries. With the onset of the global financial crisis, people around the world became much more attentive to their spending and new purchases, and brands continued to produce more and more new types of goods.

At the same time, people gained wider access to information thanks to modern communicators and telephones.

Thus, before buying any new product, many began to turn to forums or social networks in order to find out from other consumers their opinion about the new product. But the general market tendency has come down to the fact that buyers began to react to advertising as follows: "Do not tell me what I should buy. I know myself, and your advertisement is useless to me." And this is not surprising! Today, people want to make their own choices.

When I summarized all these factors, I came up with the idea of ​​creating a retail concept where all products will be offered to customers for free, and people themselves will be able to choose what interests them first. This is the basic strategy and philosophy of Sample Central stores.

I don’t understand how you can buy something in a store without money? Just take a sample of the product from the shelf, try it, and only then buy it. So?

Not really. By the way, there is already such a term as “trydvertisement” (from “Try Before You Buy” - “Try before you buy”). It is a pity that I did not invent it. The idea of ​​my stores is that buyers (by the way, only a member of the Sample Central system can be a buyer) come to the store, select the samples of goods they need, try them and write their opinion on them on the site, thereby participating in the consumer marketing survey about the pluses and cons of goods. This is a prerequisite. Thus, the manufacturer receives the opinion of a consumer who is not interested and not "zombified" by advertising, and the buyer enjoys the product he uses.

It turns out that a person can never buy anything at all, and go to Sample Central constantly for everything he needs?

I'm only going to open the first Sample Central store in the Emirates, but our research, based on the work of chain stores in Europe, shows that 80% of our customers who once tried the product return for it to retail chains and buy for their money. Note that this does not happen under the influence of advertising, but on personal conviction. In our stores there are no promoters who give you product samples, there are no people interested in promoting a particular brand. Is it your shop!

The second point, you cannot get as many samples as you like. For one trip to the Sample Central store, each of our customers can put only five product samples at a time into their cart. And it will not be easy for him to make a choice, since we have a large assortment - from 80 to 100 varieties. Moreover, in order to come to the store, you will need to pre-reserve each time on your own page on the Sample Central website the time of your visit to avoid the crowd, calmly and thoughtfully make your choice. Your visit time will also be limited to one hour per day. And, finally, the third, about each tested product, it will be necessary to write your opinion on the same web page with which you, in fact, “pay” for this product. This scheme is not suitable for every person.

How do you, as an entrepreneur, make money on this concept?

Membership fees, and their amount is very small. But, the more members in the Sample Central system, the more contributions. For example, if I tell you that the annual membership fee for Sample Cenral in the UAE is, say, 100 dirhams, will this suit you? I think yes. And others will also be happy. That is my vision. Our stores are not a closed club. We are all buyers on this planet, so the Sample Central model is open to all. Next, membership will be categorized. Everyone will join at the level of “bronze” members, and then, depending on their own activity, rise to “silver”, “gold” and “platinum”, as well as gain bonus points, recommending Sample Central to their friends. Bonus points can later be exchanged for goods in ordinary retail stores and chains. In addition, in the GCC countries we will offer other interesting schemes for loyal visitors.

When are you going to open the Sample Central store in the UAE?

I think that at the end of July - August of this year.

How will it look technically? Who supports your idea in this region?

We have signed a franchise agreement with a major investment group based in the UAE. They are very experienced retailers and have well-established relationships with many consumer brands, as they are their distributors in the region. The main success factor in this business is well-established logistics schemes, reliable partners and reputation. Our partners own their own warehouses, vehicles and fully comply with the requirements of the Sample Central concept.

Which countries have Sample Central stores in?

In 2006, we opened the first store in Tokyo. There, the whole scheme was worked out, we made a lot of mistakes, filled a lot of cones, but the concept proved its viability. In 2010, we began to conclude franchise agreements. We had stores in Europe, but were forced to close them, as other companies tried to copy the concept and were defeated, thereby undermining our reputation. However, we reopen our store in Budapest at the beginning of summer and have signed agreements with other European countries. Now we enter the markets of the Middle East, then there will be Latin America, and then we'll see.

Well, good luck to you, Anthony. We will wait for the invitation to open the Sample Central store in Dubai in order to understand what “exemplary” shopping is.

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