By Brian Walker
CEO & Founder, Retail Doctor Group


Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time.

So sang David Bowie and the topic of change is one that affects all of us in retail. As consumer purchasing habits change, they influence the way in which retailers need to change to stay both one step ahead and profitable. Recently I found myself agreeing with another commentator who said “It’s the resistance to change that undermines and creates “unfit” retailers”. Look up the definition of change and you’ll discover multiple meanings, but the one that most accurately describes the action we need to take is transform.  And transform means we must change the nature, function, or condition of; convert.

So what has changed for retailers?

The answer is of course nearly everything, particularly huge technology shifts enabling a far greater speed and availability of information, contributing to a greater informed and diversified consumer. Consumer changes are dramatic, with the traditional path-to-purchase shattered into a seemingly directed yet random interaction, with multiple channels and touch points to your brand now available in all forms from physical to singular and virtual communities. The global product and pricing transparency, together with a delivery speed that is increasingly defying even the most cautious observer, means we need to transform our own operations to match and exceed consumer expectations. The physical retail environment is an even hungrier animal demanding increasing levels of intellect, investment and innovation to stay both relevant and differentiated. This revolution is, above all else, about the speed of change – not reflections on a static point of time, but rather a consummate view of the world.

“A revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets.”

So said Napoleon Bonaparte and it’s increasingly true that today’s consumer has found his or her bayonets with the sharpest point being they will not interact with a retailer that has not embraced change. The days of a single channel-to-market supported by traditional communications are quickly evaporating. No longer do we focus on bringing consumers to our brand; rather we must bring the brand to our consumers in all its different representations. To do this, we must activate change at every level of the business from the CEO’s vision to a consistent offer across multiple touch points. Today we inspire, communicate, listen, engage, inform and respond to our brand loyalists and the product sells itself.

Thus, the question that remains is “Have all our retailers really embraced change?” There are many examples of those who have not. This point was brought home to me as I browsed through some photos of our country’s leading retailers’ shop fronts. In some examples, it was hard to tell the difference between photos taken in 2012 and 2022 (and in two cases, the owner is closing stores). The discussions around the retail ecosystem, customer experience, the growth of online channels and so on all fade into a relative priority behind this one central subject of change. Our first fitness tip is to begin the process of change and transformation with the customer. You should understand them intimately and profoundly. After all, they are the ultimate measure of your capacity to change.

For further information on where to begin your “change” process to improve your retail performance, contact our Strategy expert via [email protected] or read more on our successful retail transformation projects here!