Features, The New Rules of Retail

Think Like a Radical

Radical thinking leads to radical behavior, leads to radical change. And now more than ever, radical change is what traditional retailers need. These three radicals — (clockwise from upper left in image, Chris Duffy, VP of In-Store Environment, Home Depot, Daren Hull, SVP Technology, Stores and West Elm Digital at Williams-Sonoma, Inc,  Mark Bozek, CEO, Live Rocket and Katie Finnegan, Principal, Store 8, Walmart — are innovating in ways that are fueling the radical transformation that each of their companies need to succeed in the rapidly evolving new world of commerce. If you are a retail or branded products executive attending Shoptalk 2018, you should register for our “Wake Up” breakfast on Wednesday, 3/21 at 7:30, for a real radical learning experience.

“Retail Store” – A Mental Barrier to Radical Behavior

Just to get your radical juices flowing, can you wrap your brain around the fact that the two words “retail” and “store,” will soon become extinct? Why? Because for centuries, since the French coined the word “retail,” we have used both words to define a physical building which stores goods for sale to customers who come to the store to buy them. So, now whenever people hear those words it automatically triggers a mental image of a building full of stuff. And this image is a barrier to radical behavior, and therefore to the radical changes that need to be made to that static model.

Dancing with the devil, so to speak, Kohl’s did a deal with Amazon, placing their shops on Kohl’s platform. Rather than closing locations, they’ve replaced shrinking space with Aldi grocery stores, getting into that business overnight, just as Amazon did with Whole Foods.

Had the leadership of Kohl’s recently strategized within the old-world paradigm of Kohl’s as a “retail store,” a static building selling its own and wholesale stuff, the Aldi and Amazon deals would not have happened. They obviously deleted the mental barrier of a static “retail store” and replaced it with an image of a fluid distribution platform, upon which anything and everything can operate, even a fierce competitor like Amazon. This is radical thinking and radical behavior. The message of the moment to the industry: You are not in the retail business. You are in the distribution business. Understanding this paradigm shift will open an enormous new vista of opportunities. In fact, it is necessary for survival in the new world. Think: The poster child of a fluid distribution platform is Amazon. Do you think Jeff Bezos believes he’s in the retail business? I don’t think so. And how about the rapid fluidity with which Walmart is bringing everything and everybody onto its distribution platform? There’s also Nordstrom, Macy’s and other major traditional legacy retailers who replaced those words with a vision of a fluid all-inclusive “platform.”

After thousands of years of hammering the image of a “retail store” into your brain, getting rid of it won’t be easy. But if you want to survive in the new world, you must change your vocabulary and the model.

Speaking of radical behavior, don’t forget to register for the Retail Radicals breakfast at Shoptalk. Click here, or on the banner in the sidebar to RSVP.

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