In 2011 I presented at a retail conference to owners of several specialty retail chains. The theme of
the presentation was – ‘is high noon approaching?’ It was an appropriate theme at the time because
retail was getting smashed by the ongoing effects of the GFC, declining mall traffic and the rise of
I asked all the participants whether their businesses were at the crossroads of prosperity or decline,
capitalising on the new behaviours of consumers or whether they were stuck in the past seeking to
hold onto old beliefs and making small incremental changes to protect themselves against the rising
I asked some fundamental questions:
ß Is your concept contemporary and fresh? Really?
ß Does your business behave in ways that line up with how customers want to shop?
ß Are your organic growth prospects strong?
ß Are your unprofitable activities small and decreasing?
ß Is your per store contribution increasing or in decline?
ß Is there ‘good value’ in your offering?
ß Are you growth focused or margin focused?
ß Is your supply chain healthy or flabby?
ß Can your business sustain a 10% drop in revenue and keep going? 15% What about 20%
ß Does your vision extend beyond the next 12 months?
What I was indirectly asking them was – do you have a strong answer to the perennial customer
question of “what’s in it for me?”
It was a wakeup call for some. For others, who had it covered, it evoked some smiles. For a small
subset it was a serious call to action because they suddenly realised that they couldn’t ignore
certain ‘inconvenient truths’ any longer.
The starting point is trying to understand how consumers might behave in the future and what
products or services will make their lives simpler or better. This has little to do with managing the
status quo and even less to do with the internal problems that an organisation may be facing.
The answers won’t be in last year’s (or even last month’s) sales result or the previous three year
trend (read Nokia, Motorola, Blockbuster, Borders etc).
What consumers want are products and services that allow them to behave in ways that suits their
current needs and lifestyle – not five years ago or last year BUT NOW. And this will evolve and
change rapidly based on how they value every competing offer presented to them and how their
own needs evolve.
If you can’t provide what they want they’ll get it from someone else. Choice has never been greater
and access has never been easier. The old axiom – ‘what’s in it for me (right now)? – has never
had a shorter shelf life. Staying nimble, pivoting when necessary and getting ahead of the curve by
understanding likely market behaviour trends (before anyone else, even customers themselves)
affords the only form of protection possible. It’s easier said than done, of course, but regrettably
there are few other sensible options available …
Article by The Bull