If you’ve been paying attention to media headlines there is certainly no shortage of bad news coming out of the world of retail. It seems like we can’t go a week without a known retailer announcing they are closing stores or going bankrupt entirely.
Like most people in retail, I follow these headlines closely. I also throw them away quickly.
There’s a quote that I keep front of mind whenever I hear another doom and gloom story about the death of retail as we know it.
“I don’t think we’re overbuilt, I think we’re under-demolished,”
said Daniel Hurwitz, president and CEO of DDR Corp
Sure, it’s more complex than a simple square footage per capita formula, but you can’t discard this as a major contributor to what you’re seeing in the news.
So when it comes to what you, a retailer, can do to future proof your business I ask that you start by having the right frame of mind…the right context.
Main street retail doesn’t have 500 stores slowing them down. They have anywhere from 1 to a handful of locations along with (hopefully) an online presence.
Here are top 5 things that every retailer can start doing today to help them build and grow tomorrow!
1. Get human, fast.
Modern day, high value consumers want to buy things from other people. The largest companies know this but aren’t able to do the one thing that the small or mid-sized merchant can, and that’s put an actual human face on the business.
Retailers need to put the human soul back into their operations and it starts with the physical stores. Have a hard, critical look at how you staff and train your company. Are you building teams to be in service of customers or are you building teams to be in service of the business? There’s a big difference between the two. One is human, one is corporate. Get human.
2. Identify where you can create value, then learn how to capture it.
Having the product a customer wants at the right price is not how most small and mid-sized retailers create value. That’s just one way you capture value.
If you want your business to be sustainable you first have to figure out how you can create more value for your customers than you are trying to capture. No, this doesn’t mean losing money. It means giving customers something your biggest competitors have a hard time giving them. It is different for every business, but I promise you there are many ways you can create value for customers.
3. Stop trying to compete with Amazon (or other big 800lb gorillas)
It’s fear telling you to think about Amazon as much as you do. They are scary and therefore you worry about how real of a threat they are to your business.
That’s ok. We all do it. I’m just advising that we all stop trying to compete with Amazon and learn how to use them.
4. Ignore the headline makers and what they say works.
Big, sexy brands make the news, and because they make the news, it is easy to pay attention to what they are saying.
Where it gets dangerous is when we read about strategies and tactics that are working for these companies and think they apply to the rest of us.
The reality is they often don’t. The average brand or retailer doesn’t have 50M in venture capital to use “figuring things out” in order to grow/scale. The average brand has real constraints, and those constraints are a very good thing.
Do yourself a favour, ignore the headline makers, because their constraints are very different from yours which means what works for them is unlikely to work for you.
5. Adopt an operating system.
I could go on forever on the topic of retail operating systems and how they are out of date and need to be replaced. I’m not even talking about technology, I’m just talking about business operating systems. The playbooks of retailers everywhere.
The entire commerce landscape is shifting in real time, right in front of us and yet the industry continues to speak the way it always has. We have the same org structures, the same processes, the same terminology. Everything has changed and nothing has changed.
I urge every merchant I meet to throw away the old playbook and adopt a new one. Look to other industries for inspiration. I’m personally a fan of Gino Wickman’s Traction/EOS operating system, but there are others. Pick one, use it.