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#BODJHB: Chris Weylandt on the basics of retail

In the afternoon on day two of the Johannesburg version of Business of Design, Chris Weylandt, founder and CEO of Weylandts, the contemporary furniture and décor chain store, explained his tactics to competing or rather leading in the retail game.
Chris Weylandt
He spoke from the standpoint of coming in through the backdoor, sharing the behind the scenes and the sum of what they have to do to create the retail environment Weylandts gets so right.

First, he shared a bit about his story – his design and business influences, and then how these extend to the way he works.

Weylandt grew up in Namibia where he was surrounded by wide open spaces, representative of the large-scale Weylandts stores, and was exposed to great design at a young age.

“People often say to me, but there’s no colour in your store, and I say yes, but do you not realise I grew up in a desert?” His background is evident in these destination stores, but it’s the tactility of what’s happening there that it’s really all about. “For me, materials are king. I really love materials. I value them and I believe in their integrity.”

Another influence, besides the external environment, was his upbringing in an architectural home, housing beautiful furniture: Scandinavian, Italian, South American designs… “Growing up in that environment you get to understand… it becomes part of your DNA… these kinds of design philosophies.”

Three men that influenced his business mindset are his father, Edgar Weylandt, who opened the first Weylandts store in 1964 in Windhoek; Terence Conran, founder of home furnishing chain Habitat; and Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, a Swedish retail company also specialising in furniture.

He respects and admires his father’s long-term vision, perseverance, conviction and incredible eye for good design.

Merchandising was key for Conran. “He didn’t like what the retail stores were doing from a merchandising perspective, so he created his own stores because he didn’t see his vision being executed in the market, so he did it himself.”

And then the genius and forward-thinking ‘Mr IKEA’. “What is so fascinating about this business besides being the most successful furniture retailer in the world, is that he managed to take IKEA to so many different markets. I haven’t found, yet, a furniture and homeware retailer that is global.”

The basics of retail

So if you want to be in the retail game, you’ve got to enjoy selling, you’ve got to be a trader by heart, because that’s what retail is. You’re selling product.

1. Clarity

Business: Vision; identity
Design: Authentically; ethos

2. Thinking long-term

Business: Strategy; investment
Design: Stay true to yourself; future trends

3. Have conviction

Business: Do it!; perseverance
Design: Follow your gut; make it yours

4. It’s a team game

Business: Expertise; environment
Design: Collaboration; suppliers

5. Numbers never lie

Business: Rand/m2; overhead ratios
Design: Visibility; material selection

6. Dress to impress

Business: Brand consistency; merchandising
Design: Inspire; showcase

7. Customer journey

Business: 360°; brand advocates
Design: Environment; five senses

8. Learn

Business: Best practice; be humbler
Design: Evolve or die; travel and be conscious

“Retail. It’s dynamic. It’s exciting. But you’ve got to have the balls to do it. It’s not an easy game, but it’s enjoyable. I love it.”

#BODJHB: A disconnect between business and purpose

Trevyn McGowan, co-founder of Business of Design and the Guild Group, opened day one of Business of Design in Johannesburg this morning, reflecting on the past year, which has been an extraordinary year for them with new ventures and a massive amount of hiring in a short space of time...

By Jessica Tennant 19 Oct 2017

That’s just a taste of the current flavour of design-thinking. Click here for our Business of Design coverage, and be sure to follow @busofdesign for the latest updates.
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About Jessica Tennant

Jess is Marketing & Media Editor at She is also a contributing writer.