Everything in retail is turning upside down.
For generations, the key to growing a retail business was to open more and more stores.
Getting physically bigger was what it was all about.
The size of a retailer’s store estate was a proxy for its strength – several hundred stores or more always impressed, and ensured you were taken seriously.
Today, the opposite is true and what were once thought of as assets are increasingly liabilities.
Most retailers have far too many stores and exiting leases is so much harder then signing up.
Being publicly quoted was another indicator of strength and importance.
Having access to (relatively cheap) capital was often critical if you wanted to grow fast.
Acquisitions could be relatively cheap. I would say that today, being quoted is a growing disadvantage.
Being a hostage to quarterly trading updates to a market that expects you to always beat your past performance come what may.
Retail is a business that can never be judged quarterly because it cannot be led or managed against such a short timeframe.
or most of us, the retail industry we have grown up in has been characterised by relentless growth.
While the wider economy has seen ebbs and flows, and the odd recession, retail demand has known only growth … until now.
The predominantly used management tool has been the rear-view mirror,
assuming that the past will be repeated going forward.
It won’t, and not knowing what the future looks like is the major source of industry challenge we see right now.
Looking behind you makes it so much more difficult to see what lies ahead but many decisions are still being made this way.
Every aspect of today’s retail business requires review.
Most retailers don’t just have too many stores, they are mostly too big.
And they mostly carry far too many products aiming to please too many different customers.
Many have sacrificed some of their engagement with core customers in pursuit of peripheral ones.
In other words, chasing sales growth at almost any price.
The consequences of this are clear: poor availability, constant promotions and deteriorating trading performance.
Despite this backdrop, there are plenty of role models demonstrating how it
should and can be done.
And while simply copying will not work, aspects of success can be incorporated and fine-tuned for your own business.
Selfridges thrives while most department stores are struggling.
This is a company that executes innovation brilliantly. Not technical innovation but constant change in the offering and service, giving customers a compelling reason to visit regularly.
While as a rule it will become increasingly challenging to build a
retail business selling someone else’s products, Selfridges is brilliant at doing this very thing, truly curating an offer whose sum is greater than the parts.
A lesson to landlords, as well as to retailers.
Lush invests heavily in its staff, training them to deliver immersive, empathetic service to a very loyal customer base.
Aldi offers a finely edited range c5% the size of its typical superstore competitor, producing hugely superior trading economics.
More recently, it has invested in developing a more segmented
offering, gradually adding more upscale products. Customer profile today is classless, very far away from the cheap and rather one dimensional Aldi of 30 years ago.
Primark obviously leads on very low prices but has very cleverly added layers of increased fashion and complementary ranges to build around what remains its core basics offer.
Ted Baker is an excellent example of brilliant branding.
If you took the labels out and removed the store name, everyone would still
know exactly which store they were in.
Ted may have lost its founder but I’m sure that it will remain true its culture, brand values and distinctive handwriting.
This is by far the most challenging market we have ever seen.
The market is forcing an industry shake-out.
There are too many mouths to feed. But the death of stores/the high street etc has been hugely overdone.
We are seeing the beginning of an end game for mediocre retailers but for there will be more room for the truly outstanding players to make excellent returns.