Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
29 November 2016
Retailer Troubles. Who will survive?
All (or almost all) brick and mortar retailers are in trouble. Macy’s is just one of the bigger retailer examples. Sports Authority, JC Penney and Sears would make the list. And even Walmart is closing some locations to better position the bottom line.
What’s really wrong with the retail industry? Are the troubles in which retailers find themselves due to online competition? Is the category of department stores doomed?
It all depends on if the retailers start to learn from their failures and change. Based upon past performance in adaptation to change, success in the category is highly unlikely. Retailers are the last to embrace change and the most stubborn in adapting to newer market conditions. Most of this is due to a lack of vision by leadership and a tenacious gripping on the model in which they have invested.
Macy’s leads the pack…in headlining the troubles
The trouble with these retailers (Macy’s closed close to 40 stores in 2015 and it looks like the blood-letting will continue in 2016) is not the rise in online retail sales. It is the inability to understand the WHY behind consumer changes. Online retail is NOT the problem. It is a symptom of the problem. Department stores like Sears, JC Penney, Macy’s, and Kmart are simply failing the needs and expectations of the mercurial consumer.
The prescription for this malady is to regroup under the wing of so-called industry experts. In other words, they look for answers in the same old places.
What it’s like to be a retailer?
It reminds me of a story I heard years ago. It goes something like this… A man and his wife leave a bar in the evening. As they head up the sidewalk, they pass by an alley and the gentleman notices that there appears to be a man crawling on all fours in the alley. He pauses for a moment, asks his wife to wait for a moment and he heads down the alley to see what the problem is and if he can help.
As he approaches the frantic crawling man he notices the strong smell of alcohol. Despite this, he asks the poor fellow if he can help with anything? The drunk man tells our hero that he has lost his wallet and is trying desperately to find it. So the gentleman agrees to help him and begins a careful search of the wallet in the alley. After 10 minutes or so, neither have any luck finding the wallet. Exasperated, the helpful gentleman asks, “Are you sure you lost it here?”
“Oh no,” says the drunk, “I lost it down there…” and he points to the far end of the alley.
“Why on earth are you looking here then,” the man asks.
“Simple” he says. “There is no light down there.”
If Macy’s wants to survive as a dominant retailer, let alone win, they need to look outside the category for answers. But, they all seem to always look where the light is.
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