RSR Research: Are We Beginning the Next Golden Age of Retail?
By Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, Retail Systems Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers.
We sit today, in the second half of the first year of the 21st century’s second decade, and I’m wondering if we aren’t on the cusp of a new golden age of retail. Consider the past five years as notable for at least three things: 1) customers’ demand for better service, 2) the meteoric rise of blogs, social networks and other forms of user-generated or interactive content, and 3) the Great Recession, with plummeting stock and housing prices dissolving discretionary spending and thinning the over-large retail herd.
It seems as though surviving retailers are starting to pick up the customer’s cadence and picking and choosing the best from retailing’s finest hours. As examples:
Retailers Meeting Consumers on Their Turf: For many it has been a grudging journey, while others have embraced it wholeheartedly, but most retailers have established beachheads on social networks, created mobile web sites and apps, and solicited reviews and feedback from their customers.
The Return of the Iconic Brand: Most recently I have been fascinated by Macy’s best exclusive label offering yet – the Material Girl line. There are few pre-teens who even know Madonna has a daughter, but their moms probably wore a lot of those wanna-be fashions in the 80’s and will happily take their daughters shopping to buy these cool clothes. The “face” of the brand, Taylor Momsen of “Gossip Girl” insures that the teen demographic will be drawn into the offering. We’re watching Madonna passing the face-of-the-brand torch to the next generation. And Macy’s representatives report “…it has been flying off shelves since the launch.” On the flip side, us older, wider folks were happy to learn that Saks has worked with name designers like Fendi, Dolce and Gabbana and Yves Saint Laurent to create an “upscale line of plus sized fashions.”
Retailers Catering to Consumers’ Need to “Be Part of Something Bigger than Themselves:” In her article, “Re-imagining Retail” in this month’s issue of Stores Magazine, Diana McHenry of SAS argues customers notice and appreciate initiatives like Pepsi eschewing Super Bowl ads in exchange for fostering local service grants, and other retailers supporting initiatives like RetailROI, the Retail Orphan Initiative spearheaded by IHL’s Greg Buzek and the late Paul Singer. We seem to have moved just a little bit past the “all me, all the time” decade into the “Man, things can get tough out there, let’s help each other out” era. It’s an era of community or so we hope.
When you put these pieces together, catering to consumers, a return of fashion and reinforcing a sense of shared community you start to see a larger picture. This picture takes us beyond a sea of sameness, poor service and lackluster, disconnected experiences to a world of relevancy and interest. If we can make good on that brand promise, we’ll find ourselves in the next Golden Era of Retail… one where supply chain, sourcing, marketing and technology combine to support retail’s integral place in the twenty-first century global community.
Discussion Questions: Are you encouraged that retail is heading in a healthier direction? What newer factors (social media, brand creation, recession-impact, etc.) do you see playing the largest role in driving any progress?