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HomeOPINIONRetail leaders step up please

Retail leaders step up please

We are living in a shake-up moment in history. One of immense opportunity for those retailers, mall owners and brands who can transform their models. Shoppers are looking to be entertained, engaged, educated and immersed. Our digitally driven customer is now retail-first and quite frankly, many on our shores have been slow to respond.

Perhaps it is a resistance to change, a lack of money, a lack of leadership or a sheer lack of ability to transform how organisations work cross-functionally. Internationally we are seeing extreme retail transformation from hyper-localised retailers, to data-driven enthusiasts. We have retailers and brands going where the shopper goes, when the shopper goes.

As our changing market and shopper moves at such a relentless pace, many of us look to the traditional leaders of our industry for direction, for inspiration, for reassurance. But the shackles of large, cumbersome and YOY-dividend-focused business are struggling to create more engaging, entertaining, interactive and ultimately more profitable experiences.

If as retailers we need to serve the shoppers’ growing desire for discovery, inspiration and shareability through their journey, then our own recognised “retail leaders” need to up their game and need to share their thoughts, challenges, concerns and insights to ensure a vibrant New Zealand retail ecosystem. This means seeing them embrace diverse store formats, integrated campaigns, experiential marketing, tactical collaborations, social platforms, playful interactions, one to one relevant interactions, convenient services and innovative touchpoints.

At the recent Shoptalk conference, retail behemoths such as Target, Walmart, Nordstrom and Macy’s shared how they’ve experienced tough times and had to undertake significant company transformations to survive. They recognise that their size, history and heritage is not going to be enough to be a thriving brand of tomorrow.

What I applaud is their openness with the retail fraternity to say they don’t have all the answers, that they have had to change their approach and that they need to continue to constantly evolve.

Here are a few insights I gleaned from the big guys at Shoptalk. In particular:

  • The ways of the past will not win in the retail game of tomorrow.
  • Agility and change will be constant – and we just have to be ok with that.
  • Acquisitions and mergers may be the most appropriate way to acquire skills, capability and defensibility.

I think our traditional retailers need to adopt radical thinking. What was successful in the past is not going to be successful in the future. The business needs to be empowered to make change and make it fast and this will require permission by their boards and shareholders to try, fail fast, improve and move. Rather than the constant focus on year-on-year same store sales growth and the constant drive for short-term returns retailers will require investment and the ability to be able to constantly change. This is our New Normal – a retail industry that embraces continuous, disruptive innovation to satisfy the changing customer expectations of the digital age.

Juanita Neville-Te Rito

Founder and retail strategy director, Retail X.

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