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What’s next: Retail 5 years in the future

“My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare, I had to cram so many things, to store everything in there.” The lyrics in David Bowie’s song, Five Years, capture what life is like for many consumers in the fading light of the year 2013. This is the age of overload and overindulgence. We don’t watch TV any more, we binge view. We no longer communicate; we drown in email and social media inputs. We don’t make simple purchase decisions; instead we battle choice paralysis …

Breaking down the fortress

Vietnam’s still fledgling organised retail market has just one more year’s regulatory protection before the walls come down. Foreign retailers have only been allowed to open stores in the developing nation of 90 million people since 2009 and the early entrants have pretty much coloured their accounts with red ink since. But in 2015 Vietnam will have to accede to its World Trade Organization’s obligation to permit the opening of wholly foreign-owned retail businesses, including retailers. A…

The death of discounting and other dumb predictions

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.” So wrote Bill Gates in his 1996 book, The Road Ahead. Looking back over the last (almost) six years of columns I have written for Inside Retail, Gates’ words resonate strongly. Particularly as I review pieces that I penned on upcoming trends, I can see that the retail world changes relatively slowly in the…

Christmas balls or balls up?

The annual transatlantic Christmas commercial challenge is on again, and for me it’s no contest. The Poms may have lost the first test, but they smashed it against the Yanks in the UK versus US holiday ad stakes. The difference is really “Crass-mas” versus “Christmas”. Kmart US corners the market in questionable taste with its ‘Show Your Joe’ spot. Half a dozen tuxedoed guys stand behind a table performing as a hand-bell choir. The table slides away to show the tuxedos wer…

Shift gear with sharp ideas

Round about the time of the global financial crisis, “stores ran out of ideas just as consumers ran out of money”, according to David Roth of WPP The Store in London. The effect? Growth came to a grinding halt. Roth was speaking at the final Westfield Breakfast Seminar in Auckland this week (sponsored by Inside Retail), after the event traversed the continent from Perth to Sydney, and made the trip across the Tasman. Roth’s point was that the GFC marked the end of an era in retail…

Connecting the data dots

I’ve spent the last week with a retail futurist, a retail historian, and a retail anthropologist; listening, learning, and debating where retail is going, where it’s been and how we need to relate to different generations of customers now and tomorrow. The occasion was the annual Westfield Breakfast Seminar Series across Australia and New Zealand, and I was pleased to be invited as a speaker, along with Steve Brown (the futurist, from Intel in the US), David Roth (the historian and retail…

A remote control for the retail store

In the hands of shoppers, the smartphone is fast becoming a remote control for bricks and mortar retail. It allows customers to interact with a retail environment on their terms in a more relevant and personal way than ever before. Customers (if they are not already) will start to favour retailers (and manufacturers) that are smartphone friendly, switching off from those that are not. From a shopper’s perspective, I want to be able to walk into a store with my smartphone and connect t…

A digital Christmas? Bah hashtag!

While Target in the US gears up for its “most digitally enabled (holiday) campaign in history”, many Australian merchants are saying ‘bah hashtag’ and playing down the importance of online. According to the just released Deloitte Christmas Retailers’ Survey, more than half of retailers researched expect online sales this festive season to be two per cent or less of total revenue. Perhaps they are longing for the ghost of Christmas past when one of the only channel to market was bric…

Developing digital DNA

Imagine being first to utilise a brand new technology that allows customers to interact with your store directly, order what they need, and have the product home delivered even before they click off. US drug store, Walgreens, achieved that utopian goal… more than a century ago. What was the ‘new’ technology? The telephone. How did Walgreens do it? Pretty simple – when a customer called to refill a prescription, Charles Walgreen Sr. kept them on the line long enough for the deliv…

The new Steve Jobs?

Can anyone be worth $28 million in a single year? Burberry obviously thought that its CEO Angela Ahrendts was deserving of the package for her work in FY 2012, a year which saw Burberry achieve $3.3 billion in sales and $717 million in profit. The brand’s share price has trebled since Ahrendts joined Burberry in 2006 and set about turning a dusty old trench coat company into a fashion icon for the times. Along the way, the 53 year old small town American girl successfully leveraged what I s…

Creating a successful tech strategy

From scooter to F1 race car… Here is how to implement a successful technology strategy… “Investments in the right kind of technology can significantly improve the bottom line for retail businesses.” “Choosing the right technology and deploying the optimum solution has though become an overwhelming task with mind-boggling options, disparity of costs, features and opinions which make the selection of a technology partner a daunting task for retail managers.” Here are some seriou…

Path 2 Plane

One of the more interesting paths to purchase is the journey from airport check in to boarding an international flight – what I’m calling the Path 2 Plane. And one of the more amazing Path 2 Plane experiences is the $2 billion renovation of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. On a recent trip to the States, it was a revelation for me, as this used to be one of the most dreaded encounters for a traveller on the planet. As in all airports though, you still need to get t…