Built for Growth: Expanding Your Business Around the Corner or Across the Globe

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By Arthur Rubinfeld and Collins Hemingway
Wharton School Publishing, 2005
368 pages, $25.95

If you’ve ever considered opening or investing in a retail startup, you really should take a look at Built for Growth. Author Arthur Rubinfeld is a consultant who was formerly executive vice president of store development at Starbucks. Under his guidance, the coffee chain grew from 100 stores to nearly 4,000 worldwide. He has used his considerable expertise to create an excellent handbook for retail store development, aided by an expert writer, Collins Hemingway (coauthor of Bill Gates’s Business @ the Speed of Thought).

The authors structure their discussion around familiar aspects of retailing — planning, execution, location, and innovation. Although most of the concepts in the book are not particularly new, what is impressive is the in-depth discussion and integration of these elements, which can come only from people with true expertise. The authors suggest that today there are only three viable positions for retailers: exclusive specialty retailers such as Williams-Sonoma and Tiffany & Company; targeted lifestyle retailers like Starbucks and Banana Republic, and price/value retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco.

Once you have chosen a position, the authors maintain, successful retailing has more to do with selling experiences than products, and the touchstones for powerful experiences come from the core values and purposes of the venture. These values and purposes are derived from the repeated distillation of the firm’s mission until the essences — things that are special and specific about the firm’s offerings — appear. These essences must then be expressed in every aspect of what the firm does: location, design, presentation, decor, merchandising, and so on.

If the intention is to grow the concept, this is the time when modularity must be built in — plug-and-play designs that can be used to express the essences in a wide variety of physical situations. Mr. Rubinfeld describes how he created a multifunctional “skunkworks” at Starbucks to create in-house store prototypes that embodied the coffee vendor’s touchstones of earth, fire, water, and air.

In addition to stressing the theatricality and sensuality critical to powerful experiences, the authors devote considerable time to the nuts and bolts of selecting real estate, negotiating with landlords, and other nitty-gritty details of retailing. Like a fine retail store, the book is a meticulous blend of conceptual clarity and bone-deep experience.

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