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Catastrophic Muck-Ups And How to Avoid Them

The One Where Hannah Wasted $50,000

Francesca jewellery store

A decision to open a pop-up store quickly became one of the worst and most expensive mistakes in Francesca's history, but Hannah was able to turn it into a resounding positive for the business.

The full catastrophe

In 2017, Hannah Vasicek, director of Francesca, opened a pop-up store that culminated in one of the business’ worst catastrophic muck-ups. In a situation that threatened to alienate her staff, Hannah flipped this expensive mistake into a positive learning experience.

“In the midst of redoing our Hobart store, we had some joinery that we were going to abandon, so we thought we may as well open a pop-up store over summer so it didn’t go to waste. We opened out West of Melbourne. We were supposed to open in our peak period, October – December, but a series of unfortunate events meant we only opened ten days before Christmas.

In hindsight, I should’ve done a feasibility study and pulled together a marketing plan, but instead we just jumped into it. It turns out the centre is only busy around the huge holiday periods, everyone in the area went away over January so we just lost so much money on rent and staffing costs and it’s the first time in our entire history that we’ve had a no-sale day.

This whole exercise was a massive failure. We also didn’t hire additional staff, we just used our existing store staff, so they felt stretched and stressed. Morale dropped and they were exhausted. It was heartbreaking to see because everyone is so passionate about the brand and trying to make this huge mistake work. It was about a $50,000 mistake but it was one of the best things that’s happened to the business at this stage. It forced me to see that we needed more strategy behind our decision-making.”

“We opened a store west of Melbourne coming into our busiest time of year…Christmas passed and we bled money for two and a half months. It was about a $50,000 mistake.” – Hannah Vasicek, director of Francesca.

“We had the option to extend our lease at a discounted rate, so we flew to Melbourne to debrief with all the Melbourne staff and they thought they were going to be presenting their complaints and reasons for wanting to close down the pop-up. We actually opened up the meeting by assuring them we’d be closing the pop-up and then I did a presentation on all the ways I’d failed.

It was a really awesome learning experience and it was an opportunity to show how we could turn a failure into a positive. So we gave the girls time to brainstorm all the things we didn’t do right, because the brain is much better at pointing out the negatives, so we could then flip those things to find the best way to succeed in similar situations – it was pretty cool. It also showed them that if we experience a challenge, we’ll sit down together and work out a solution.

We closed the store March 21st 2018 and we’re still recovering from it. Within two hours of our meeting, the girls were absolutely buzzing and excited about redoing our Melbourne store and potentially opening two pop-ups later this year.”

Read more about Francesca and learn how Hannah grew the business from sole trader to 30-woman business in seven years.

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Sharing customer success stories from good businesses around Australia, practical good business guides and the occasional catastrophic muck-up (and how to avoid them).

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