Is there anything special about specialty retail?
John Bajorek, EVP, Strategic Growth & Innovation, WD Partners
Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from WayfinD, a quarterly e-magazine filled with insights, trends and predictions from the retail and foodservice experts at WD Partners.
While the department store channel garners much of the negative retail press these days, specialty stores generally earned poor marks in our annual consumer study, “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.”
WD Partners invited more than 4,000 consumers to share their opinions on 100 of the top brands. A rating system signaled if a brand is “Good” (gets them and holds a meaningful place in their life), “Bad” (not for them, but can see why others might like them) or “Ugly” (doesn’t care if this brand disappears tomorrow).
Specialty retail represented a few of the top, but most of the ugliest brands of 2018. Breaking down niche specialty segments: consumer electronics, personal care and crafts were bright spots, even as specialty retail brands represented the wide majority of poor performers in 2018. Jewelry led the charge, closely followed by specialty apparel — both of which were presumed to be high performers going into 2018.
While it may be true that specialty retailers are uniquely positioned to offer in-depth brand expertise and customer service in their particular verticals. They’ve too often played it safe.
Granted, other changes have hurt specialty, but the category isn’t doing enough to make up for lost ground. It might have once seemed normal to spend an entire afternoon to go to ten different stores in search of the perfect polka-dot shirt. That’s an absurd proposition for many shoppers today, who would rather spend ten minutes searching online for what they want.
Product, ironically, is also not the fix, even if specialty retailers keep obsessing over getting the right product mix or riding the latest fashion wave. You can get any product any time when you’re anywhere, so it’s almost impossible to be exclusive today.
Digital Natives (18-29) and Digital Immigrants (46 and older) still crave and want the social experience of a physical store. And no one is better positioned to pull off experiential retail and showroom stores than specialty brands. Most, however, aren’t embracing store innovations, from mobile apps to gathering spaces and showroom stores. It’s time for specialty to innovate before it’s too late. Specialty retail, of all categories measured, has the furthest to go.
- Is There Anything Special About Specialty? – WayfinD
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2019 – WD Partners
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Have specialty retailers been affected any more or less by online disruption than other retail verticals? Do specialty retailers generally have any advantages in adapting to the related changes in consumer behavior?