Retailing success doesn’t depend on silver bullets
In his book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” Ben Horowitz relays a conversation he had with a fellow engineer at Netscape at a time it was under siege from Microsoft’s web server, which happened to be five-times faster. Netscape had just gone public three months prior.
His counterpart told him: “Ben, those silver bullets that you and Mike are looking for are fine and good, but our web server is five times slower. There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum, physical retail has been under similar siege. Volatile employee turnover, challenging rents, a tight labor market, shifting foot traffic and technology infiltrating the store at every turn. This, in addition to many global retailers burdened with lackluster real estate, irrelevant merchandise assortments, weak data and tough cash positions. Where’s the silver bullet?
Anyone who’s spent considerable time in physical retail has heard the silver bullets as they’ve been loaded into the figurative magazine:
“We’ll increase our investment in e-commerce; that’s where our growth is coming from.”
“Let’s poach [senior leader] from [legacy or competitor’s business].”
“The [insert technology] will fix it.”
If it were easy, wouldn’t everyone have figured it out by now? It’s no secret that over 75 percent of overall retail revenue occurs in physical stores, and while that number will likely decline in the years to come, it will not invert.
The role of a team member or manager within physical retail has fundamentally changed and increasingly requires an advanced skill set as artificial intelligence and other technologies become more prevalent. That along with a reduction in footprints will become more critical to retail success as stores become physical hubs for redrawn customer districts.
It’s time to reinvent the store. I’m not referring to shop renovations, touch-screen kiosks or the vague notion of experiences, which often take the form of champagne and cheese Fridays. I’m talking about those who create experiences; people. You won’t find any silver bullets.
- What Is the Future of Ecommerce in 2018 and Beyond? 10 Trends – Shopify
- What in the World Is Causing the Retail Meltdown of 2017? – The Atlantic
- Why AI Will Shift Decision Making from the C-Suite to the Front Line – Harvard Business Review
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How will the role of store managers and associates need to change in the next couple of years? What skill sets and training will be needed to keep store staff ahead of the competitive learning curve?