I guess it’s true, retailers and I just don’t see eye to eye. Like a hungry stomach, I hear the grizzling mumbles of so many dissatisfied voices all bemoaning the fact that for one reason or another the retail business is on its last knees. On liners have usurped their customers; shopping hours are too long, or too short depending on who you talk with; the GFC has robbed them of their bread and butter and margins are lower than a snake’s armpit.

I can understand their consternation, and yes I’m sure it’s tough but I simply don’t get their strategies for clawing back the customers. One example that has recently been flaunted by a major retailer in answer to those nasty little customers who try things on in the store, then order them on the internet, is to charge to enter the store. Mm! I can just see how that would work. That idea is nothing short of brilliant.

Trouble is, that conventional thinking isn’t addressing the real cause and as a consequence ‘Retail’ can’t come up with the right solutions.

All this didn’t begin yesterday. In my opinion it started 10 to 15 years ago when many retailers decided to turn their businesses into discount farms. 50% off this; BOGOFF deals (That’s, Buy One Get One Free); pay half now and nothing later; Sales, Sales and more discounts.

‘Retail’ commenced lancing a boil that didn’t exist, as each business wanted more and more market share and ‘quality’ became obsolete in all but a few products. As an unseen consequence ‘Retail’ created a new market personality as consumers abandoned loyalty and simply shopped for price. At that time no one in ‘Retail’ got it.

Created by ‘Retail’, the price point buyer is now exacting revenge on the industry and sending them a new message, “When all else is equal, we’ll take the cheapest price”. Short of charging its customers to come into the store, ‘Retail’ is out of ideas as Armageddon approaches.

One thing online can never ever do is, create new experiences. The internet is a backward robot , it can’t think forward and it can only respond with predetermine information and if ‘Retail’ can get its head around this fact, they won’t just compete, they’ll conquer.

What ‘Retail’ needs is, to turn shopping into a trip. To entertain, create a stage, become human, get rid of the counters, buy more lounges, give the customer a reason to be there, create Assistants with personality. Start by changing their title, their job specs and please change those dowdy black uniforms for something less terminal.

Discovering that a store assistant actually possesses more personality than a computer screen will be a revelation to most customers. Pamper them, give them a coffee and make shopping a joy.
It’s pretty simple really, if you can’t outwit and out think a plastic box of predetermined parts then something out there is very wrong. Quit grumbling, get of your apex and do something completely different. Shopping needs to become a carnival with swings and roundabouts, human, promotional and stunningly impacting. There’s a choice, sit on your derriere while the online companies steal the customers you helped create or use the store as a creative tool that no computer experience can match.

Oh! And while you’re at it, get rid of anyone on staff without a personality, it might increase the unemployment figures but it will boost your turnover and the economy significantly.

Addendum: A special mention goes to the wine waiter at the Rendezvous Hotel in Scarborough, Western Australia. Last Saturday night, your stunning personality and helpfulness left us dazzled and wondering which part you played in ‘Shaun of the Dead’?