The State of Retail 2017 – “WINTER IS HERE” a Fairy-tale or nightmare based on the Game of Thrones.

 “WINTER IS HERE” a Fairy-tale or nightmare based on “Battle of the Bastards” of Game of Thrones.

Global retail is facing a winter(s) of discontent as digital retail takes hold and traditional retail reaches a tipping point. Your retail strategy needs to align to the changing marketplace. We need to adapt and innovate.

There is no better way to explain what is happening than by a fairy-tale based loosely on the Game of Thrones Episode “The Battle of the Bastards”.

Scene One:  At the height of the Battle of the Bastards, Jon Snow’s army (the goodies) is surrounded by Ramsay Bolton’s army (the bad guys) and a wall of dead bodies is at their back preventing any escape. All seems lost.

The characters are:

  • Ramsay Bolton – Represents the Baddies in retail terms which is Amazon, Alibaba/Tmall, Rocket Internet, fast fashion monoliths H&M, Zara and Uniqlo and all engaging in digital disruption.
  • Jon Snow – Represents the goodies in retail terms traditional bricks & mortar retailers having to decide if they Fight (invest) or Flight (ignore).
  • The Dead Bodies: Retail failures like Masters, Topshop, Dick Smith, Marc, Pumpkin Patch, David Lawrence, Payless and retailers that are not dead yet however are on their last breath like US department stores and many retailers that are profitless.
  • Sansa Stark: Whose army comes to the rescue? She represents the new wave of retailers who reinvent themselves, let’s call them digital retailers. They use a combination of customer experience, innovation and lowest cost to reinvent and reinvest in themselves and match the Amazon customer experience online as well as in store.
  • The Night Walkers: The unseen enemy yet to play a major role in the series but potentially may have the largest impact. In retail terms, I would put into this category Amazon Prime, Amazon Market Place and Alibaba’s equivalent that will facilitate Global FMCG, Consumer Companies and Chinese and Asian Manufacturers competing head to head with retailers. For those who think this is unlikely, for a number of global brands Amazon is one of their top 3 customers.

Scene 2:  All is lost until Sansa Stark and her army come to the rescue, she represents retailers who meet the challenges head on and adapt. They innovate and excel at the customer experience. To do this they apply digital thinking to reduce costs and reinvest the saving so they can compete.

The message for Traditional Retailers is to adapt now and not wait and see what happens. Start with a strategy to determine where you need to be in 18 months and how you will shave costs to fund your transformation. We are working with a number of retailers and suppliers to help reposition their businesses. Your biggest enemy could be your own team who have a vested interest in the status quo so use an outside strategist to help you overcome internal resistance, speed up transformation and challenge your own views. Your retail strategy needs to align to the changing marketplace.