Ten Years of Lessons: The Irony of It All
It’s been 10 years this week since we introduced RetailWire to the retailing community. We began with a simple notion: although we felt we had plenty to say ourselves about retailing, opening up the discussion to experts in the field and day-to-day practitioners could create a more multi-faceted learning environment.
Thanks to a generous and supportive BrainTrust panel and loyal participant-readership, we’ve continued all these years with surprisingly little change in our approach. So as we look back, we wondered if much has changed in the fundamental topics we cover and the lessons imparted now compared to February of 2002. Perhaps because, similar to the present, we were working to claw our way up out of a down economy during our inaugural year, many of the discussion topics were remarkably similar. But a scan of the headlines from the first few months after launch struck me with a profound sense of irony.
Who Pays for Marketing Private Label? (2002)
Warren Thayer (on our BrainTrust then, as now) asked why retailers and manufacturers agree that private label needs to be marketed “like a brand” and yet cannot agree on who should foot the bill for marketing.
Fast forward to a late 2011 discussion — Private Label Should Follow National Brands’ Lead on Marketing. The discussion question: Should private label suppliers help fund the marketing costs of retailers’ PL programs? According to BrainTrust panelist Peter Deeb, we’re no closer to a resolution now than we were in 2002. “Most retailers want the lowest dead net cost that a supplier can offer,” writes Mr. Deeb, “and the bid or auction process has driven down those prices to retailers. This process has forced manufacturers to run very lean so that any marketing funds are dedicated to product and packaging improvements.”
Blockbuster Challenges Netflix (2002)
The discussion article began: “Blockbuster CEO John Antioco hints that the company might be considering an all-you-can-eat DVD-rental offering to counter similar services offered by Netflix.” Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe Blockbuster followed this logical track. The rest, as they say, is history. (Oh, the irony.)
From the writing-was-on-the-wall department … we cited author Jim Collins’ premise that when companies run into trouble, the desire for a quick fix can become overwhelming. “Lurching from one solution to another, the company never gains any traction.” Mr. Collins called it the “doom loop.” A&P (double irony) is used as an example of how Kmart should stop behaving.
Here are a few more early 2002 discussion headlines that drip with irony (no explanation required):
I believe in my heart that our audience has learned a heck of a lot over these 10 years and that they are doing their best to spread the lessons learned and warnings heeded. And for all the missed opportunities during this time, in many ways, the industry is miles ahead and learning at a faster clip … right?
Discussion Questions: How far have retailers come in the past 10 years in understanding and reacting to the challenges they face? In which areas have they made the most and least progress in your eyes?