Michelle Hespe chats with Wolfgang Gruschwitz about how and where he finds inspiration in the world around us.
Wolfgang Gruschwitz is the owner and managing director of the Gruschwitz Corporation, which offers full-service retail store design and visual merchandising expertise to retailers. His company has high profile clients such as ZARA and Burberry, and he also lectures at the European Retail Trade Institute and the Retail Trade Academy. Gruschwitz has been one of four expert jurors involved with the IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia) since 2003.
So where does someone who needs to continually inspire retailers and other people in the industry find inspiration? According to Gruschwitz, inspiration is everywhere, and it is just that simple matter of tapping into it. “I find inspiration through personal and business travel and in trips to trade fairs and conferences worldwide,” he explains. “It’s about finding inspiration in the details of everything, and always being open to all types of unexpected inspiration.”
Inspiration is a difficult thing to define, and to most of us, with the day-to-day work we all need to put in to ensure business is on track, it’s not easy to attend all of trade shows and inspiring conferences that we’d like. But Gruschwitz insists that inspiration can be found right on our doorstep. In fact, if he had his own definition for inspiration, it would be, “the ability to have open eyes and be excited with all you see.”
That means that the world, no matter where you are, is your inspiration oyster. And sure, travel is a sure-fire way for most of us to get inspired, but keeping inspiration alive and well in your store is also imperative to keeping your business at the forefront of the industry, and top of mind with customers. With so much competition, in bricks-and-mortar stores and with the ever-burgeoning retail scene online, you need to do everything you can to pass on inspiration to your staff, so that they, in turn, inspire your customers and get them excited about your product offerings and retail environment.
“Retailers need to keep their staff inspired by paying attention and spending time with them. And by taking them and their ideas seriously,” says Gruschwitz. “Show your staff new things all the time, and arrange their ideas and products with creativity. Have meetings to discuss new ideas. Make different combinations and configurations within your store, and remember to always say ‘thank you.’ People need to be thanked for their new ideas, and it will inspire them to create more.”
He also recommends renovating and making refurbishments every two to three years, on a larger scale, “But when it comes to décor and things in your store that are easily changed, make sure you make changes every 10 days, at least,” he says.
Gruschwitz also believes that getting inspiration from the outside can do wonders for a company’s bottom line. He recommends getting some fresh ideas in the door. “Consulting plays an important role in places of service – whether in retail or in food and beverage environments,” he says. “Fresh ideas and new perspectives can come through consultants.”
After all, fresh inspiration can lead to your customers coming back, and that is the aim of the game for everyone in retail. “You need to make your customer a fan of your store, and always be creating new retail experiences by mixing different styles that you see and seek out. Get inspired and bring the inspiration back into your own space,” he says.
There are many stores in the world that Wolfgang has loved and admired for their innovation. After all, as a judge of the IHA Global Innovation Awards, where he sees 23-25 of the best retail stores in the world come to Chicago every year to battle out for the top five spots as gia Global Honorees, he is accustomed to seeing the best of the best.
However, recently one store has really caught his eye, and it has led to many moments of inspiration. “One of the most inspiring stores I have seen lately is Coledampf in Berlin, because of its simple, innovative idea,” says Wolfgang.
The store sells housewares in a restaurant setting, where customers can dine, and firstly sample anything they may wish to buy – from the serviettes to the plates and décor. It is a busy café with long tables and a small menu. Guests can see the chefs cooking and buy everything from the pans they use to serving spoons and cutlery. In one corner, there are fine wines for sale, and in another niche, a chocolateria where diners can sample homemade chocolate, made with real, freshly- roasted cacao beans.
“It’s inspiring,” says Gruschwitz.“And of course, it’s all about giving your customers a great experience so that they come back.”
In the eyes of Wolfgang Gruschwitz, wherever you go, and whatever you see, finding inspiration is as simple as opening your eyes to everything around you. Watch, listen and try to understand things that are not in your everyday world. After all, the world will never run out of inspiration – you just need to reach out, hold on to it and make the most of it when it comes flying your way.
To learn more about Wolfgang Gruschwitz and the projects of Gruschwitz GmbH, visit www.gruschwitz.de.