Perspectives

From The Co-Founders

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Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts


ROI Co-Founders
ROI Co-Founders's Article
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The basic definition of retailing is "selling to the ultimate consumer." 

As you know, HOW that is done, and in what location or format, continues to change and evolve. 

So, we were intrigued by this recent post on the Shopify Retail Blog: The Future of Physical Retail in a Digital-First World.*

  • The "retail digital-first world", of course, is either the "pure play e-commerce retailers," those who sell only online, or the "brands" (what we used to call manufacturers) who have embraced the "DTC model," selling direct-to-consumer. 
     
  • And as you know, Shopify is one of the largest platforms for e-commerce businesses. Definitely a leader of the retail digital-first world.

To us, the blog post was essentially a wide-ranging journey of discovery(and perhaps even some new-found respect for those "physical retailers".)

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We think this may be a very different 4th of July Holiday weekend. 

It will not be just about red, white & blue window displays, or flag waving, or fireworks displays. Instead, there is a new mood, a new attitude that is emerging. 

First, we believe that all shoppers are reeling from being swamped by some major and concurrent attention-grabbing events and trends affecting all of us. Seemingly with no end in sight.

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Consider these front-page headlines and the accompanying chart (see above) from the June 6 Wall Street Journal*  "Surplus Inventory Piles Up", "Stores Are Stuck with the Wrong Items." 

Look at it carefully, and think of your operation in comparison. How do your numbers compare? Are you as shocked as we are?

How did this happen? 

Partly as responses to the unprecedented impacts of the pandemic. 

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Have you seen what the Silicon Valley venture capital firms are saying to the  startup firms they've invested in? 

While it may be tempting to smile and nod approvingly at this dose of business reality, there's a ripple effect to be aware of.

As reported in the May 31 edition of the Wall Street Journal*, "Their advice includes cutting costs, preserving cash, and jettisoning hopes that hedge funds or other investors will swoop in with big checks."  

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The playing field has shifted dramatically under the feet of retailers. 

Merchandise orders placed months ago are now proving to be "too much stuff that consumers no longer want so much of,"  as was reported rather colloquially just 3 days ago.  All this was summed up this way: "Retailers with slower inventory turns might find current conditions especially difficult to navigate." *

Now, look at the chart at the top of the page. Without being dramatic, it may be a lifesaver for your business this year. 

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photo: Greg Gilbert/Seattle Times

Recently we read of a "bookshop on wheels" launched by a college English instructor. While certainly not the first retail variation on a food truck, this one has gained praise for its authenticity. 

"What’s most surprising when you walk into Blue Kettle Books for the first time is how cozy and, well, bookstore-ish the tiny space feels."*

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You may be one of the many retail owners who share our vision of why to own your own business: “Making money. Having fun. Doing good.”  

You see, we believe that Owners do not have to choose just one goal for defining "success" in their business. Goals do not have to be mutually exclusive; they can converge. Just like in a Venn diagram.

Here's a fun exercise. Make your own Venn diagram for your own business. Start now to make that convergence come to life.  

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Every day, there are all too many headlines of things outside our control. 

  • The war in Ukraine. 
  • The global energy crisis.Inflation. 
  • Rising interest rates. 
  • The falling stock market. 
  • Wildfires. 
  • Droughts. 
  • Supply chain disruptions. 
  • Rising costs. 
  • Crime rates. 
  • Social injustices. 
  • The latest coronavirus variant.
  • And...And...And...

The drumbeat of news about these events is relentless. And wearing. 

While retailers are notably resiliant and optimistic, there IS a limit to how much uncertainty one can continue to take.

Then we discovered that there is a name for all this: VUCA.