It must be a really interesting time to be a retailer. Changing shopping patterns, dispersed multiple locations of commercial activity and ever more demanding consumers has created a dynamic environment where business as usual will never be an option. The reality is that today’s retailer will need to innovate and adapt if they wish to remain competitive and relevant to the market.

One key way of doing this will be ensuring they have the capability needed to meet these changes head on. Today’s successful retailers are investing in technology so that the can enhance the in-store experience. They can use this technology to make the consumers experience easier, to engender loyalty and to measure and modify their own behaviour to meet market demands. This is not the case of a physical location no longer being relevant to retail but an understanding that an integrated and multi-channel approach both to marketing and sales will yield better results for the business.

The ideal shopping experience needs to be convenient and this is not just about ease of parking. Nor is it about a one-stop shop selling everything from a single location, but rather the whole experience from start to finish needs to recognise the multiple touch-points that a consumer now has when making their decision to purchase and that they will not differentiate between in-store and on-line so neither should the retailer.

There will be a cost to this approach. It will involve further investment in technology, website design, customer management software as well as developing systems for managing logistics and inventory. This means the retailer will need to examine –as always- how to best manage the allocation of their resources and balance or offset any resulting higher costs and lower margins.

However if we accept that the environment they are operating in is dynamic and that they are there to meet a market need along with a unique consumer experience, then in essence retail at its core is very similar to any other business endeavour. The owner does have to critically examine their strengths and weaknesses. They do have to adapt and innovate to meet changing market needs. They do need to ensure that they seek the appropriate business support to enable them to have the business capability to sustain their passion to succeed.

So while I said that business as usual was not an option perhaps this is actually a case of this is what operating a business in a competitive market has always been, that it is usual business and that this is the risk business owners take to ensure that we as a community can have access to the goods and services we desire.

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