I’m fed up with talking about the death of traditional retail. Time to turn that frown upside down, stop whingeing and start fighting.
Retail is the biggest employment sector in the UK. It provides jobs and therefore lives and opportunities to millions of families. It’s too important for us all to sit idly by and watch it die.
The issue (in as short a paragraph as possible) amazon are ripping the industry a new one. They are brutally efficient and ambitious. Retail stores suffer from a stupidly low net profit margin. Their big costs are stock and people. Therefore when struggling they cut stock and people. Great. So as a customer offer; you can no longer get what you want or find someone to ask. Their greatest strength has now become just another nail in the coffin. So how can retail fight back?
Retail stores used to be all about the people. And local stores still are. Marion knows you always order a skinny flat white and you know that semi skimmed is fine. You ask after each other’s kids, smile, banter and wish each other a wonderful day. It’s that interaction that drives loyalty and therefore regular visits, building community along the way. It’s all about the people people!!
What if retailers decided to focus more on the people that work for them. Empower them to make decisions. Train them to be retailers not shelf stackers. Create ownership and responsibility of the shop, not ‘I only work here saturdays mate’
Apprenticeship placements are down 61% in the last year. This incredible resource base and programme is being wasted. Young people need to be given a chance at a career not just a job. And retail employs a lot of young people. The Princes Trust works heavily with young people and identify retail as their biggest employer. Funding levy issues or not we need to fix the apprentice issue. We have recently taken on two apprentices and they have added huge value to our team already.
Going shopping is now competing with all other types of day out. Theatre, park, museum, cinema. It competes for consumers time and money. It must be enjoyable to survive. It must be a destination. A thing to do. With a family (that doesn’t cause arguments.) and is genuinely fun.
Retailers constantly bang on about in store theatre. It’s complicated. Hard to centralise and make efficient. Funny that. However having events going on in the shop and telling customers about it, clearly can only be efficient if it is owned by the people running that shop. Let managers be individuals. I spent six months of my life in Hong Kong in 2005. Every shop was rammed full of demonstrations, activity, bargains and chaos. Customers were packed inside loving the hustle and bustle of discovering something new. It was a health and safely nightmare. There were a lot of cooking knife demonstrations.
It’s proven that closing a shop impacts the online sales in that immediate area. Luckily, going to the post office remains something less enjoyable than going to the shops. Click and collect is a vital tool in retail getting up the priority list. It provides a reason to visit and therefore an opportunity to sell.
All shops now sell the same stuff. John Lewis & Macy’s in the US, rebranded and centralised the offer of all the various department stores they bought over the decades. They are now all lovely and similar and efficient. But they have lost the local element that they now so desperately need. Williams and Griffin in Colchester, for example maintains its individuality and its consumers still feel like its their shop! In fact Peter Jones is the only department store within John Lewis to maintain that position. And the locals passionately call it their corner shop!
TKMaxx is the worlds fastest growing retailer. There’s a secret behind their success. Range and bargains. The range changes. It’s feels and is local. Savvy customers know they have to be carrying the item to have secured it. If store managers had control over the range in every UK shop they would a) enjoy their jobs more and b) provide a better edit for their local customers. Provide that golden when it’s gone it’s gone moment. How often do get a helpful answer these days to the question; are you getting more of these in?
In my days at John Lewis we spoke a lot about online exclusives. Surely now we need instore exclusives. Consumers have loved markets since we were primitive. The idea you had to buy at that very moment to avoid missing out. It meant we came back. Regularly.
As a retailer by trade, this is my template;
Recruit more staff, empower, train and develop them
Have constant activity going on (not just cooking knives)
Edit the range. WIGIGs and bargains
Think Local. This is a local shop for local people.
So as we enter the golden quarter and subsequently trudge through the retail sales PR machine in the new year with inevitable profit warnings and Black Friday excuses. Let’s all consider going to the shops and bantering with Marion to brighten our day.
Be nice to Marion.