Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

The headline I’ve written for this post may seem slightly overdramatic.  But a great brand story is not a nice-to-have.  It’s an absolutely-must-have.  Because consumers are short of time, overloaded with information and spoilt for choice.  If you don’t differentiate your offering from that of competitors, and make the value of your products and services immediately apparent, it won’t be long before customers are lured away.  Cotswold Outdoor is a case in point.

You read about it here first

About ten months ago I wrote a post about their belated and cack-handed attempts to find a compelling brand story.  I suggested that they were making it far too easy for the likes of Go Outdoors and Amazon to eat their lunch – and gave a quite detailed analysis of what, in my view, they were getting wrong.

Cluck Cluck, oh ****!

Once I had pressed “publish” I forgot all about it got on with my life. In the meantime, unbeknown to me, the chickens came home to roost.

A follower of my blog remarked that Cotswold were in difficulties.  So I did a quick search and discovered they’d been on the slide for a while.  Outdoor and Cycle Concepts Ltd, of which Cotswold Outdoor is a large part, made a pre-tax profit of £14.9m year ended 31st Dec 2015.  This was followed by a pre-tax loss of £50.3m for year ending 31st Dec 2016.  They made a further pre-tax loss of £6.7m in 2017 followed by £13.7m in 2018.  By my reckoning that’s a total loss of £70.7m in just three years.

In May it was reported in the press that “Creditors of the troubled owners of retailer Cotswold Outdoor have approved a company voluntary arrangement.  Outdoor & Cycle Concepts, parent company of Cotswold, Snow+Rock, Runners Need and Cycle Surgery, will now seek rent reductions at some of its stores.  The firm also plans to close two Cotswold Outdoor shops in Peterborough and Ipswich, the Bridgend branch of Snow+Rock and Cycle Surgery in Highbury.  Outdoor & Cycle Concepts, which is based in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, operates 120 stores and will seek lower rents from its landlords in 50 of them, following backing by 97 per cent of unsecured creditors for its plan.”

Unprepared for stormy weather

We all know that high street stores are under serious pressure from online retailers – so lacklustre marketing is not the only reason for Cotswold’s demise.  These challenging trading conditions, however, are all the more reason for giving customers a compelling brand story.  The management have failed to do that.  And the results are all too plain to see.