Opinion: Everything new is new again!

This article was written for C&I Week by Craig Matthews – Founder and managing director of Stock Box

Even Amazon is trying to take their business back to the good old days of bricks and mortar. Image: Supplied

Online home delivery, click and collect and now pick-up services like Amazon Fresh are all considered as true innovation, when in actual fact they have been around for decades.

I recall my very first job in retail as a casual shop assistant in my local supermarket. In those days we were called bag packers and yes, behind every register was some young 16 year-old ready to pack your groceries into brown paper bags. Those were the days when shops were closed on Sundays, Thursday night shopping was until 9pm, and supermarkets closed at midday on Saturdays.

There were no self-scanning registers: products had to be price marked and tins were stamped with ink stampers. If you grew up in this era of retail then you know the pain of price changes and the removal of sticky price tickets, or ink from tins every week to reflect the new promo pricing.

At the front of the store was a row of trolleys that had either bags of groceries marked for home delivery by some local guy in his station wagon, or bags marked for parcel pick-up ready to be taken to the back of the supermarket for a staff member to place into the customers car.

Todays retailing is all about the marriage of old fashioned values and modern technology.

The reality of retail is that everything new is just new again, brought back from the past and adopted with current efficiencies and technology to make it relevant again. Today’s retailing is all about the marriage of old-fashioned values and modern technology.

So with that in mind, and faced with the uncertainty of the current retail climate, what do retailers need to do? Well, like we have seen with the above examples, the answer to your future in retailing lies in the past.

During the same era, corner stores flourished, in part due to limited trading hours, but in the main because of their range and assortment. The corner store was the go-to place for those interesting products.

Who can remember cracker night, before it was banned, and your local corner store with their big displays of Tomb Thumbs, Penny Bungers and Thunders. The range assortment, bright colours and smell of powder still resonates’ with those of us who can still remember.

Retailing needs to be a place of discovery, where new and interesting products are found. Today’s shopper isn’t looking for generic experiences in their everyday life — and they don’t want to buy bland products from you either.

In a recent report by AMP Capital report on Recommended Retail Practice (RRP) they found that there is a shift back to shopping in-store by Gen Z, the shoppers of the future.

Mark Kirkland, managing director of AMP Capital Shopping Centres, said: “The findings of the 2017 RRP report are significant as it confirms that the future of retail is bright, with a range of new opportunities at our fingertips”.

Findings from the same research identified four key themes that are trending:

  1. Traditional shopping is not dead, and contemporary shoppers still prefer in-store shopping, drawn to face-to-face interaction and a touch-and-feel experience.
  2. Online shopping and bricks-and-mortar need to co-exist, as the internet will have an important role to play with the overall shopping experience for future shoppers.
  3. Authenticity and being socially responsible will matter to shoppers in the future, opting for retailers with strong ethical standards and purpose that goes beyond just selling.
  4. Men are warming to the whole shopping experience, highlighting the importance of brands and retailers to acknowledge the power and opportunity of the male retail market.

Diversity = disruption, and disruption creates engagement and interest that sets one business apart from the rest. What sets you apart is what will attract new recruits to your business and if the current trends are anything to go on, it will be your willingness to morph traditional values to new technology: that will be your greatest advantage.

As much as we want to believe that things are soooo different from the past, the fact of the matter is that they’re not. Big box retailers, promotions and price discounting were still key considerations for any independent retailer in the past; the difference was that the corner store was the go-to place for new and interesting products that you could not get from the supermarket.

Diversity of range will be a key strength for independent retailers in the future, and I will leave you with this to ponder…

A recent conversation I had brought up a good analogy to illustrate this point, when the drinks category was compared to the parliament of the day.

Essentially you have two major parties running the country, which is not unlike the drinks category, yet the balance of power and greatest influence lies not with the major parties but with the minor parties. It is these minor parties, or in retail terms the greater array of interesting and innovating suppliers and their products, that will hold the balance of power with our future shoppers.

Everybody expects you to have the main stayers in your store, but what they will remember you for are those products that they were not expecting which surprised and delighted them.

Think about it!

Thanks for reading



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