07 December 2011

The predictable state of retail.

Standing in line last night at a big box store (that sells office supplies), a curious sequence of events had me thinking how desperate all of this seems. I was there to buy a simple cardboard box. In the transaction, I was asked if I had or wanted a warranty card. I was then asked if I wanted to get a deal (2 for $10) on printer paper. As my transaction came to a close, I was handed three pieces of paper. My receipt was expected, and a coupon for my next visit was also somewhat expected, but the coupon for a local shoe store was not. How does all of this relate to my visit for a cardboard box?

The trend towards infinite expansion of offerings, and 'anything for a buck' promotions reminds me a couple of other industries... notably the airlines and long distance calling. You've probably noticed that long distance calling is now free, and airlines have resorted to silly things like charging extra for snacks and your luggage.

There is always someone who will work for less. That's not a disruptive business model. That's competition. Retailers need to focus on what they do well. They deliver immediacy, they deliver a human touch point, they allow you to try on that blouse, and they offer an opportunity for customer service. These are core attributes that brick and mortar stores offer over and above most any dot com. Focus on what you do best, and scale to meet demand.