Article in My Business: “Dear Retailers, It’s Not Me, It’s You”

This is a little bit of tough love: Dear Retailers, It’s Not Me, It’s You! 

I constantly hear retailers blaming the customer for their situation, so I thought I would write them a Dear John Letter:

Retailers It's Not Me, It's You articleIf Australian customers were to write Australian retailers a ‘Dear John’ letter as to why they have left them for another; it would start, “Dear Former-Favourite-Store, it’s not me, it’s you….”

Consumers are very vocal with their displeasure; in the media, online, on blogs, in social media, on TV and to each other. It seems to be top of mind with the media, journalists and TV shows mentioning it regularly. Dissatisfaction is rife. They feel retailers have let them down, don’t know what they want and lost touch…

So they vote with their feet and their dollar by going online, finding what they want and not going back to the stores they are unhappy with.

There is no doubt that retail has changed. Retailers seem to be blaming a myriad of reasons: from online shopping to fickle customers. But is it really a blame game? Does someone have to be at fault? Isn’t it more important to assess the market place and figure out what needs to be done to ensure survival of the business?

I have listened to retailers complain about the world they are now operating in:

  • Customers are buying online and not from them;
  • Customers aren’t spending as much as they used to;
  • Suppliers don’t have as much stock to choose from;
  • They can’t get anything exclusively;
  • Freight is too expensive;
  • Customers are more demanding;
  • Competitors are copying THEM;
  • They think social media is irrelevant, useless, too personal etc;
  • They are too afraid of getting online;
  • They can’t get their head around online shopping;
  • They don’t know where to start.

And my favourite of all time….”Ahh the good old days, things are different now…”.

So although the above is ALL TRUE, it doesn’t help them adapt to the new environment and thrive. Let’s face it, it’s not enough to survive in business, it must thrive and grow.

I want to say this to Australian Retailers: It is not a blame game. The world has changed and you are where you are because you have not adapted to the new market and customer. The customer has gone elsewhere because they can’t find what they are looking for. It is not personal.

Yes this IS tough love in action. I love retail and I want to see Australian retailers succeed and prosper.

The statements and questions that retailers need to ask are:

  • What is the current consumer behaviour?
  • What changes so I need to make in my ranging?
  • What operational changes need to be made to incorporate online store?
  • How do I start getting a website and online store?
  • What changes do I need to make to my website?
  • Which social media sites should I get onto ?
  • Do I need new suppliers?
  • What changes do I need to make to my ordering and stock holding?
  • What training do I need for myself and my staff?

These may sound basic and they are…..baby steps…..

Once these are addressed, then the fun begins!!

The longer the delay, the more there is to catch up on.

It is important to note: it is not the details that are the issue but the attitude and mindset of the majority of retailers. It is no secret that I think Australian retailers and brands have had it easy in the bubble of geographical distance. Like most bubbles it eventually burst and made a god-awful mess!

Retail is a business like any other and must be approached in the same way, especially in this climate. It is not enough to be an expert in the product or to really love it. Retailers need to be business people who make the hard decisions and change the business according to the market.

Consumers are miles ahead of retailers, they are using the technology, sharing information with their friends, connecting with their favourite stores and brands and singing the praises of their favourites!

Retailers who see the changes they need to make as challenges and achievements will make it through. Those who see it as a nuisance or hassle or are so overwhelmed by the task at hand that they are paralysed, I am sad to say, may not make it through, unless they seek / employ help to bring in the skills they don’t have.

The important thing is for retailers to know where their customer is and be there. Once they are there, they need to be relevant and engaging. When they master being relevant and engaging, they need to be strategic and sales-focused.

So don’t wallow and feel sorry for yourself, embrace the new world and find your place in it!

Read it online here.

3 Comments

  1. Melita
    November 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    What a wonderful article Nancy - very inspiring!!!

  2. November 5, 2011 at 9:50 am

    thanks Melita!! of course this is totally irrelevant for you - I often use Invitations by Melita as an example of what TO do :-)

  3. December 15, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Great article Nancy. It's a real shame that so many of the major Australian retailers are so slow in taking the required steps to get online. It has certainly levelled the playing field with brand equity coming a distant second behind the online user experience when trying to shop online. I'm gradually starting to see some of the major brands recruiting online and digital teams, but I fear it's all too little too late. Especially when you have the likes of Next (UK clothing brand) that have been selling online for years now, entering the Australian market using an online store and offering very competitive delivery rates.

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