The Davids and Goliaths of Retailing

Recent news from retailers has been dire. Christmas and Sales figures have disappointed and following the demise of brands such as Currys, we have witnessed the death throes of major retailers such as HMV and Jessops, although there are plans to rescue some element of these two once loved brands.

So what’s gone wrong? Yes there is a recession (double-dipped, triple-dipped, infinity-dipped as far as we know); economies around the world are struggling and yes, consumers (and businesses) are thinking twice before purchasing. But why do internet outlets fair better? And why, despite the increasing number of boarded up shops around the country, are independents surviving whilst major brands fail?

I suggest that in the past two decades of increasing retail concentration and global super brands, that somewhere along the line, major retailers have lost the plot!  In their drive for increased market share and reduced costs, many retailers have failed to keep in touch with what their customers want. Often, this ingredient is simple. Consumers want relevant products, good value (at any price point) and more often as not, they want good reliable service. Providing this, it seems, is becoming beyond the reach of many retailers.

I’ve been in Jessops a couple of times over the past years and have had to wait for quite a long time for the admittedly knowledgeable, sales assistants attention. 45 minutes later, I want to purchase the item of my choice and find there is no stock. On other occassions, I’ve ordered in the desired item to find that on collecting said item the shop has given it to someone else. I am not surprised they’ve gone bust, the writing was on the wall.

Similarly, the much loved and once iconic HMV failed to keep in touch with its customers. Failed to extrapolate its product range and develop its customer experience.

On the other hand, small independents have had to survive by being customer focused and tuned in to customer needs. It would seem that the Goliaths still have something to learn from the Davids of the retail world.