Fix Up, Look Sharp: leading Australian fashion chain levers Neat for communication bliss
Mar 18, 2022
Illustrations: Andy Stone
- Locations: 13 retail outlets across eastern Australia
- Sector: Fashion retail
- Website: incu.com
Travel restrictions, echoing laptops and an embarrassing gaming microphone all led leading Australian high-end fashion retailer Incu to procure a number of Neat devices. CEO Douglas Low explains how Zoom and Neat have forever changed the way his company communicates with its 13 stores, 190 staff members and a worldwide range of suppliers – and how a Neat Bar can even be a tonic for a bad back.
Tell us about Incu?
We have 10 Incu stores across eastern Australia, through which we sell lots of brands from Nike and Adidas right up to Armani and Jacquemus. We also have the franchise rights for the American brand Rag and Bone, for whom we run two stores, and another outlet that exclusively stocks the French brand A.P.C.
When did you start using video collaboration?
Prior to the pandemic, we’d use that old dinosaur model where our teams would regularly travel down to our Sydney HQ. But, by April 2020, it was clear we needed to rethink all our in-person gatherings.
How was the transition?
We had some people in the office but most of the team worked from home. When a few of us were in the same meeting room, and we had both our laptops running the same meeting, we got this terrible echo going back and forth. Also, as we added more people in the room, we had to socially distance, so at any given time half of the room couldn’t hear or be heard.
One of the director’s sons is into gaming, and he suggested we purchase a podcasting microphone. The mic had a big red light beaming out of it, which, if you were around 15 or 16 would have been the coolest thing, but it was a bit embarrassing to have it flashing away on the table. We struggled on for a while, then we started to look at alternatives.
When the Neat sales rep did a demo from his home office, I made him go to the corner of the room, turn his back on us and speak really softly. We could hear him so clearly that we had to get one in to test.
So, when did you start using Neat devices?
When we moved into our new office, it was fitted with a speakerphone device, which now seems very dated. It didn’t have video and it didn’t work because the room had a lot of hard surfaces and was really echoey. We talked to the architects and between us we tried a number of solutions, of which one was Neat Bar.
At that stage, I was skeptical having explored all these different devices and none of them being right. So, when the Neat sales rep did a demo from his home office, I made him go to the corner of the room, turn his back and speak really softly. We could hear him so clearly that we had to get one in to test. Once we tried Neat out, we could hear everything. We could pick up everything that was going on. It was a game-changer.
How does Neat work with your business?
It’s very challenging to buy clothing remotely, because a blue shirt looks like every single other blue shirt over a screen. You can’t tell what it fits like. You can’t tell what the materials are like. It’s a very tactile experience. But it’s made a lot better if the sound and picture work seamlessly – and it’s a lot easier to focus on the conversation when you’re not fiddling around with things that are not working correctly.
For the day to day running of the business, using Zoom and Neat has made a huge difference. I can put my Gold Coast manager together with one of my Sydney managers over Zoom. They wouldn’t usually speak to each other on a day to day basis, so it’s great that we can create this feeling that they’re part of a bigger network and they can share their experiences, challenges and ideas.
Also, I’ve literally just jumped off a call with Rag and Bone, with whom we’re about to build some new stores. Last time the process was managed through conference calls, but when you’re trying to talk through architectural designs, renders and floor plans it’s really challenging. This time around it’s been a lot easier.
Once we tried Neat out, we could hear everything. We could pick up everything that was going on. It was literally a game-changer.
What are your three favorite things about Neat devices?
• How clear everything is, that would be number one for me. It just works. When we first used the Neat Bar, I remember the directors saying it actually feels like we’re in the room. I’d also say how easy it is to just jump in and use. It took people just one go on the Neat Pad and they nailed it. It’s really intuitive.
• Secondly, we really like Neat Symmetry. We’ve got a big meeting room and the field of vision is quite wide. For everybody on the call to clearly see everyone’s faces, makes meetings really inclusive.
• Finally, I’m not sure whether I can mention this, but one of our directors has a bad back. Often, he’ll get up in a meeting and start walking about and stretching. It’s his way of staying engaged but the camera just follows him as he’s speaking. Without the auto-framing it would be weird if I got up right now and walked to the other side of the room, because you guys would be like, ‘Hey, he’s just walked off!’
Please sum up your experience thus far with Neat.
There are a lot of devices out there that over promise and under deliver, but Neat has exceeded our expectations. It was a small investment to make to ensure we can communicate seamlessly.
For more information on Incu, please visit incu.com
Incu use Neat Bars and Neat Pads in their Sydney headquarters. Neat Bar is a simple and elegant, compactly designed yet highly capable meeting room device for Zoom or Microsoft Teams. It’s perfect for bringing superior-quality audio and video to your meeting, huddle or focus rooms for up to ten people. You can mount Neat Bar above or below one or two monitors, and it comes with Neat Pad, our dynamic touch screen, which you can use to control your meetings or display room availability outside the room.