The beauty of Sorbet

Topics: Business, Retailing, Brand Pages: 10 (6559 words) Published: April 26, 2015
February 2012

As the cabin crew dimmed the lights of the plane after the evening meal had been cleared, Ian Fuhr, chief executive officer of the Sorbet Group, reflected on what he had achieved since the brand was launched in 2005. Fuhr was returning home to South Africa after having enjoyed watching several of the 2011 Rugby World Cup games held in New Zealand. The short term future of Sorbet seemed assured. Historically, the months of October and November delivered increased sales revenue from the chain of beauty salons due to the South African summer holidays. But Fuhr was wrestling with the challenge of how the Group could maintain their high levels of service and its strong Sorbet brand whilst both increasing their number of outlets and diversifying into other business opportunities. By 2011 Sorbet consisted of 20 company-owned beauty salons and nail bars, mainly in the Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria areas, and 17 Sorbet franchised salonsi. They had almost 400 therapists and other staff and their carefully managed loyalty database indicated they had 67,000 loyalty members (whom they referred to as ‘guests’). A customer explained that she had noticed the distinctive branches of Sorbet in many shopping centres but had originally gone to a Sorbet outlet because of a gift card given to her as a birthday present. She was immediately struck by the professionalism of all their staff; the cleanliness and bright atmosphere of the salon appealed to her, particularly the bright ‘ice-cream‘ colours of the distinctive bubble murals. Everything ran on time, the staff were immaculately turned out in neat uniforms and chatted to customers with great charm; she felt that “the happy feel the branch and staff always had was genuine and not forced”. She felt that the staff were better trained and delivered a better experience and outcome than the hotel spas she had frequented. Furthermore, hotel spas’ prices appeared to be double that of Sorbet. Another benefit for her was that she had started giving Sorbet gift vouchers as gifts to her friends because she knew that the recipient had an extensive variety of options from which to choose in a wide range of locations. The customer was impressed that the store sent text message reminders to her cell phone the day before every appointment and she had been pleasantly surprised when she received a text message to advise that she had reached her loyalty point threshold and was now entitled to a free treatment of her choice. Compared to other retail stores from whom one received small loyalty vouchers after spending large amounts of money, she felt that the Sorbet loyalty system offered a much greater return on investment. She also liked the fact that she earned extra loyalty points on her Clicks card (a large national retail chain) for each treatment, received a birthday discount on a treatment from Sorbet and was often given free samples of face care products. She summed up her experience over a year of having manicures, pedicures and facials by saying “I trust Sorbetii”.

Identifying the gap
Fuhr thought back on why he had transitioned from the retail to the beauty industry. In 1976 he started a retail business with his brother, which comprised large stores selling mainly house ware, stationery, some school wear and music to the lower income market. Over the next 28 years, Fuhr continued to grow and help run the business while enjoying a wide variety of other jobs in between. He tried his hand with a music business for about six to seven years and then started a labour

This case was prepared by Verity Hawarden with Prof. Margie Sutherland and Nicola Kleyn at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg, South Africa. The case is not intended to demonstrate effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation; it is intended for classroom discussion only. Copyright ©2012 Gordon Institute of Business Science, University...

References: i
Sorbet website: (accessed 24 January 2012)
Sorbet website: (accessed 24 January 2012)
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