the retail apocalypse is fake news, here's why
I love retail.
I love everything about retail, and I have been in the industry for over 25 years so this is personal.
There is no question that the way customers are shopping is changing at a rapid pace, and I have started to hear the term “retail apocalypse” used outside of the retail industry more and more. People are often surprised to hear when a specific brand is doing well and yes, those stories are few and far between, but if we turn our backs on brick and mortar, we will only perpetuate the cycle, shop on-line, and sit back as more stores and malls go dark.
It even has its own Wikipedia page; "the retail apocalypse is a term used referring to the late 2016 and continuing into 2017 closing of many American retail stores”. An “apocalypse” is defined by Webster as an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale. Yes, there are brands that are closing, and yes there are people losing their jobs right now including many of my friends and colleagues, but this is a 2.6 trillion-dollar industry and when things are tough, it is important that we recognize what is not working and create dialogue about solutions.
We have benefited for years with high traffic, large spending power from tourists, aggressive expansion of locations, and in many cases a lack of competition. During those years of growth, we got lazy, and now we must get back in shape. A successful retail business is so much more than just a well-known name over the door, and often there are valid reasons why one of them fails.
When we are being honest with ourselves, the most important element and most difficult, is human interaction. It is one of the only things that differentiates an off-line experience from an on-line experience, and no sophisticated algorithm or app can predict how you will develop a relationship with a stranger walking in the door. It takes incredible talent, hiring great people, an investment in training, and consistent follow up. When we don’t deliver on the minimum expectations of the customer, what we say to them is “we don’t care if you shop here”.
The positive financial impact to our economy when we are successful is enormous, here are some facts:
- Retail supports 1 in 4 jobs in the US
- There are 3.8 million retail establishments in the US that employ 42 million people
- Employment of retail sales workers is projected to grow 7% from 2014 to 2024
- In 2015, there were over 9 million retail hires in the US, the equivalent of 25K+ hires per day
What happens when all of it works together? The customer engages with the brand in a much deeper level, they go out of their way to come and see you, they don’t shop on your website because they enjoy being in the store, they share their experiences with friends and family, and they ultimately spend more money. There is no apocalypse happening in a store like that.
Excellent customer service is the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed expectations. That’s very easy to say but very difficult to do. The relationship gets even deeper when you get to know your customer by finding out more and more, integrating yourself into their lives, evolving with them as their life changes, and being fluid in what you provide them and how you do it.
Keep looking for those experiences that inspire you, retail stores are a great place to experience product first hand, connect with the brand and with the people that represent it, and for those of us that are most heavily invested in the future of this industry, let’s not let this fake news get in our heads anymore.