The Retail Champion: 10-steps to Retail Success – The Book! #indieretail

I was invited to write a guest blog for Claire Boyles who runs Success Matters (twitter: @claireboyles), it was to focus on Successes (and/or failures) in 2011. For Claire’s blog I decided to focus on how I’d had a success that may almost never have happened due to the limiting beliefs I’d formed as a result of listening to stories of other people’s “failures”. Here’s what I wrote…

“If you want to be considered an expert you MUST publish a book” (by any possible route!)

For several years people had been saying I should write a book. I dismissed it at the time as not for me – primarily due to the increasing number of unknown business people becoming self-appointed experts simply for churning out a self-published book and then claiming that they must be an expert; after all they had written a book! That was NOT how I wanted to be perceived, and so, because of this trend, the idea of jumping on the book-writing band-wagon seemed quite abhorrent…

“but REAL experts have their books published by a “proper” (mainstream) publisher”

It was in March 2011 that two things happened that began to change my view. I met Sue Blake, a PR person whose own expertise lies in helping business experts develop and raise their profile. She has also promoted literally hundreds of business books in her time, mostly published by “proper” mainstream publishers. Secondly I joined a speaking agency, who seemed quite surprised to discover that I wasn’t a published author. Now people who were used to working with experts all the time were expecting me to have had a retail book published. Hmm…

“oooh, you don’t want to bother with a mainstream publisher, they muck you about, waste your time and you’ll get nowhere with them”

I’d never really considered approaching a mainstream publisher, the reason was because all those people who couldn’t get a mainstream contract had told of the horror stories of approaching publishers, presenting proposals, how many months it took, how time consuming it was, how much work… They all raved about self-publishing as this liberating new route to being published – this made me feel that perhaps this was the only possibility for me too.

Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by negative experiences of others! It could be holding you back…

So, my limiting belief was created as a result of believing in other people’s spin. What I know NOW is that if their book had enough commercial potential they’d have been taken on by a main stream publisher…

Lesson 1: Don’t let other people’s spin cloud your belief in what you can achieve, they’re not you, you’re not them. In the retail sector right now there is SO much doom and gloom, if you’re thinking of starting out and you are being put off because of the failures of others DON’T BE. If you’ve got a great idea, a robust business plan and a clear market then you might just be the next generation, the evolutionary business, to replace the ones who failed.

Position yourself where you aim to be, not where you think you are. Be confident to make BOLD statements and to focus on what you HAVE achieved, not what you’ve not!

So, moving on… Some of the work I was doing on profile development with Sue included making minor changes to my online profile text. On linkedin she suggested adding “currently writing my first business book”. I was a little cautious, I wasn’t half way through a manuscript; I felt this was an “overstatement”. Sue encouraged me, she pointed out that I’d got a bulleted list of the chapters I’d include, and a synopsis for each based on the 10-steps to retail success methodology that I use with mentoring clients. Sue also connected me to Wanda Whiteley, a previous publishing director. I spent a couple of hours with Wanda and she really helped me to clarify my thoughts. Critically Wanda assured me that there was a commercial mainstream market for my book AND highlighted which 3 publishers I should approach.

Now I had a plan, an outline proposal and a target list of 3 publishers to approach with the ideal one, Kogan Page, at the top of the list.

The amazing power of linkedin for connecting with the right people…

Back to linkedin, I’ve long used linkedin for connecting with people and been a vocal advocate of this tool for business for about 7 years! It has served me well in the past so it was the first place I turned to in order to research how to connect with those top 3 publishers. Lo and behold, Sue Blake was connected to a commissioning editor at Kogan Page – Martina O’Sullivan. I leveraged common membership of a group in order to invite Martina to connect. On my message to her all I said was “we have Sue Blake as a common connection; I’d like to add you to my network”. What happened next blew away all my misconceptions about mainstream publishers and I hope this story will inspire you to NOT be swayed or held back by other people’s limiting beliefs!

Martina accepted my connection and 20 minutes (yes, 20 minutes) later said “happy to connect, I noted from your profile that you are writing a retail book – do you have a publisher for that yet?”

Amazing… so I replied “No, I’ve got an outline proposal / plan but as yet have not approached any publishers. Would you like to see what I’ve got so far?” Martina said that she would, and 2 hours after I’d sent it (unpolished and not in their “standard format”) she contacted me to book to meet for lunch 2 weeks later.

In spite of all the positivity, other people’s “publishing horror” stories were still preying on my mind…

I was so nervous thinking about this meeting – I really didn’t know what to expect! I still held that belief that all publishers are really tough-nuts and would make me jump through 23 flaming hoops and then say “don’t call us we’ll call you!” I was wrong again though… lunch was great fun! We got on well, shared similar values / expectations (that was probably because between Wanda and Sue they’d identified the right publisher for me) and the outcome was better than I could ever have imagined!

Martina said that they’d like to commission the book and that it would go forward to the next commissioning meeting, which was just a formality as it was already agreed internally! We talked about royalties, contract terms and launch dates over lunch. We agreed a launch of July 2012, so it could coincide with Independent Retailer Month 2012. That was at the end of July 2011 and immediately after that meeting I went away for 2 weeks holiday!

“It can’t be done!”… means: “it hasn’t been done yet” OR “I couldn’t have done that”. Don’t let spin / negativity / lack of confidence hold you back!

My deadline for the final submission was 1st November if I wanted to achieve a launch date of 3rd July 2012 (mainstream publishers do have a production lead-time of at least 6 months; Kogan Page’s is 8 months). I’d got some preconceived ideas about how long it would take to actually write; I’d heard people claiming that it takes between 9 months and 1 year to write a decent business book! Eek! I’d allowed just 11 weeks!

I knew that I absolutely MUST meet my July 2012 “Independent Retailer Month” launch date and the deadline to achieve that gave me just under 3 months to complete my manuscript… So, with that in mind it was a case of planning it out, allocating the appropriate amount of time and getting the job done – just like any other project planning, management and delivery!

I started writing in mid-August, as soon as I got back from Holiday, and I finished the first draft of about 77,000 words by 30th September. 7 weeks “elapsed time”. I had made sure in my project plan that I’d have a full month to finesse the manuscript.

The Retail Champion – 10 Steps to Retail Success.

Here’s the link to the book on Amazon The Retail Champion 10 Steps to Success is now on Amazon!  I can’t wait to hold a copy when it’s actually printed! It’s so strange to see this and I still can’t believe I’ve actually done it!

The moral of this story? Do not be held back by the experiences of others.

The moral of this story, and the main lesson I’d like to share, is do not form beliefs based on the experiences of others. Don’t be ignorant to the insights their experiences can give, BUT don’t assume that their history defines the future, your future.

If you’re a small retailer wanting to grow, but nervous in the face of the “high street carnage”, or, if you want to start-up a retail business but thing that there is no point with the way the sector is right now, STOP. Don’t focus on HMV, Past Times, Blacks Leisure or La Senza; instead look at John Lewis and Aurora Fashions. There are retailers who have delivered GOOD results and these should be the ones you look to for inspiration!

If you are clear about what you want to achieve and get advice from the right people (not people who might be jealous, fearful, or have their own interests at heart, but people genuinely committed to supporting your success) then you too can break the mould and set a new standard.

I wish you a successful 2012.


About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
This entry was posted in 10 steps to retail success, Independent Retailer Month, The Retail Champion. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Retail Champion: 10-steps to Retail Success – The Book! #indieretail

  1. Like yourself, I do tire of obviously self-published books. The giveaway signs are there: narrow margins, poor overall design, poor copy, poor print quality, limited availability.

    BUT – this is particularly true for a first book.

    Once formally published AND if you have the right print quality etc it is easier to self-publish. You have demonstrated your credibility (to some degree) and you will have a following – lots of assumptions here, I know.


    • Clare Rayner says:

      Thanks for your comment Robert 🙂
      I’ve also got 2nd book commissioned, also by Kogan Page as it happens, and 3rd is bubbling away in my mind….. I don’t think I would want to self-publish, the RIGHT publisher is such a powerful partner to have! Only today the KP USA office have been in touch, and there is a “marketing machine” that means together, author and publisher, we can work harmoniously to deliver the best possible outcomes for all concerned! Just the way it should be in ANY business partnership in fact!

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