The future of retail is only 24 hours away!

February 19, 2007

Within 24 hours the face of retail as we know it, will change forever, and will continue to change every 24 hours thereafter and it has nothing to do with Wesfarmers, Coles or any other retailer or takeover bid.

It has everything to do with you.

Within 24 hours you will have had customers through your store, made sales, lost sales, made merchandising, stocking, hiring, firing, staff and management decisions and taken actions that will affect you forever, but those decisions are all possibly wrong.

They may have all been made using rear vision mirrors and based on tired and hackneyed beliefs, past beliefs and management styles that were perfect for yesterday, questionably OK for today, but arguably harmful and septic for tomorrow!

Whole Foods Markets (USA) have opened up the first of forty new concept stores in London – a three storey premium food outlet catering specifically to tomorrow’s customers desire for quality and exotic food and produce.

This may sound farfetched, and we have seen it fail in Australia, but Waitrose has seen it and believe it is not farfetched and within 10 days of Whole Foods Market opening announced a roll out of 140 of its own similar style concept stores over the next three years.

There are worldwide examples of successful retailers tilting their sales to catch the new wind of tomorrows consumer needs and as a business futurist my role is to look at tomorrow and beyond and ask which way is the wind blowing and how do we best take advantage of it.

In the last two years we have seen the equivalent of ten years of change and in the next ten years we are going to experience the equivalent of 100 years of change.

These changes are not cataclysmic; they are not do or die, but rather are evolutionary and if interpreted correctly and used clevererly – can be revolutionary.

Your participation in the future is not requested, it is demanded.

Choosing not to participate, but rather continuing on with more of the same, as if nothing has or will change, may cost you dearly with your customers, suppliers, stakeholders and landlords. Two plus two will always equal four, so why do we think that doing the same thing way yesterday, today, tomorrow will get us different outcomes on each occasion, it won’t , it’s stupidity and shortsightedness.

The key to great innovation is to change slowly and deliberately. It is to understand the marketplace and its needs, your businesses capabilities and desires and the world of tomorrow and see where the three worlds intersect – that’s your point of entry, that’s your key marketplace difference and that’s the start of your journey towards profitable innovation and retailing.

Decide what you stand for – if it’s innovation and real difference then don’t be seduced by popularist writings and teaching and mainstream thinking, invariably by the time they are mainstream and well accepted they are old, well worn and have been discarded by the people that invented them.

If you are a follower, and there’s no crime or shame in this – over 80% of retailers are (only one person can invent the microwave, everyone else gets to improves on it), then pick and choose from the best examples around the world (and not just within your immediate retail offering, look broader) and use these learning blended with your own “wow” factor to build your own retail future.

Complacency has no place in retail and in business. It may seem idyllic to come up with the perfect retail concept and then rest on your laurels counting your return on investment, but I have never seen this sustained beyond the short to medium term.

Today’s fads and big money markers are invariably tomorrow’s case studies, there for us to read as a history lesson, but what we need to do to survive and thrive tomorrow and beyond is to continuously innovate our future, starting right now. Don’t waste the next 24 hours rewriting history, choose instead to innovate your future!