Service central, retail revitalised

Retail Marketing Management. First Edition - Services Marketing Management - Retail Marketing. First Edition
February 25, 2000

Service provision and delivery is by far the largest and most important sector of the advanced economy. It accounts for more than 60 per cent of employment and a proportionate share of gross domestic product. Services are big business and these books make a welcome addition to a growing literature devoted to what until recently was regarded as a sub-field of marketing - and a not particularly important one at that.

The first book, Services Marketing Management , sets out to provide an extensive overview of the subject with an international perspective. It is aimed at undergraduates and postgraduates on advanced marketing courses and assumes a basic knowledge of marketing and management, but should appeal to anyone in a service industry.

The authors identify four themes, which provide the foundation for their development of the subject and reflect its underlying philosophy. First, they see services marketing as being underpinned by a number of core concepts including market orientation, corporate culture, satisfaction, quality, relationships and personnel/human resources management. Second, based on an extensive review of extant definitions, they develop a novel classificatory framework of their own. Third, they distinguish between standard, customised, core and augmented services. Finally, they recognise the increasing internationalisation of services and their marketing.

The book is grouped into four parts. The first, "The services domain", deals with the nature and scope of services, their classification and the potential influence of the environment on strategic planning and management. The second, "At the heart", explores buying behaviour, interaction and relationships, with a separate chapter devoted to service quality. Part three is concerned with collecting and managing market information, strategic planning at both the corporate and strategic business unit level and the internationalisation of services. "The services marketing mix" completes the book with a discussion of organisational issues.

A number of pedagogical devices make the book suitable for both self-study and classroom use: statement of objectives, marginal notations, examples, summaries, questions and assignments and so on. This is a substantial book and its authors are to be congratulated on a scholarly but highly accessible text.

Retailing has always occupied an important place in the value chain but this importance has frequently been overlooked or diluted owing to the emphasis placed on production and consumption. But with the services revolution, this has changed and the balance of power in many distribution channels is now firmly in the hands of the retailer.

Given retailing''s increased prominence, it has become a subject for advanced study and there has been a steady flow of books dealing with the subject.

Retail Marketing by Ogenyi Omar is positioned as a comprehensive introduction. It opens with a background to the nature of retailing and the retail-marketing environment. It goes on to examine buyer behaviour and leads into a discussion of market segmentation and positioning, complemented by an examination of store image, loyalty and patronage management.

Two further chapters, on retail distribution and logistics management and store location and assessment of market potential, complete the background review.

The next chapters deal largely with operational issues such as product selection and buying, pricing, promotion and planning, while the final two look at international and electronic retailing.

With many of the pedagogical features of the previous book, the book is easy to follow and full of practical examples.

The final book, Retail Marketing Management by David Gilbert, grew out of a retail marketing course developed for Sears''s managers. As a result, the content reflects what Sears''s senior people deemed to be the most important aspects of retail management.

The original intention was to use a marketing framework within which to develop a rigorous and integrating system for the inputs. This framework was subsequently improved following feedback from leading academics in the field. The outcome is a book that is much closer to the essence of the contemporary retailer''s need for marketing than many others that attempt this perspective. More specifically, it emphasises the need for retailers to look at their business through the customers'' eyes.

The text opens with an introduction to retailing as an activity, with an emphasis on the dynamic nature of retail change in a European context. This is followed by a chapter with a strong marketing emphasis that demonstrates the relevance of a marketing approach and also makes it clear that retailing has a number of distinguishing characteristics requiring special consideration. Consumer behaviour and retail operations are considered, followed by a look at the management of service and quality in retailing.

The concept of the marketing mix and its application in retailing gets a thorough examination. While adopting the conventional 4Ps (product, price, promotion, place) approach, the accent in the product section is more on the store than on the merchandise it retails - a subject that receives detailed treatment in the "merchandise management" chapter. Pricing and promotion are given explicit treatment, while "place" is discussed in terms of supply-chain management. Another chapter focuses on the proposition that "planning is the most important activity of marketing management" and examines the importance of planning retail operations and developing marketing plans.

Conrad Hilton''s formula for success in the hotel industry - location, location and location - forms part of a wide-ranging discussion and analysis of retail location strategies and decisions. Good coverage is given to "the management of a retail brand" but less than a page is devoted to corporate branding. The latter deserves more emphasis in a climate where it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between brands. The remaining chapters deal with topical issues such as the application of information technology, consumerism and ethics, internationalisation, and a forecast for the future of retailing.

The book is well structured, well written and well suited to its audience. It is scholarly without becoming inaccessible, and provides good references for those wishing to dig deeper.

Michael Baker is visiting professor of marketing, Nottingham Trent University.

 

Retail Marketing Management. First Edition

Author - David Gilbert
ISBN - 0 3 63019 9
Publisher - Financial Times/Prentice Hall
Price - £24.99
Pages - 356

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