Does your Retail Strategy need revisiting?
When was the last time you revisited your retail strategy? When will you next be reviewing it? One thing is certain, your business and the factors that affect it will have changed in the interim and your strategy will need to change, it’s just a matter of how much.
When you are working in the same space day after day, with the same stock, in the same environment you can become blind to what is in front of you. Your customers, walking past the same displays day after day will also become blind to them. You start to make assumptions, your memory fills in the gaps that you are no longer seeing and what was once effective is no longer.
All too many retailers have been caught out in the past by being complacent. Sainsburys might be one. It was on a roll and seemed unaffected by the discounters that stole a march on other grocers. However, looking at its current trading, it is easy to see that it became complacent, lazy and assumed what was working would continue to work even when the market was changing around it. Marks and Spencer was the same. It had its heyday and suffered years of backward sales only now starting to see light on the horizon. It assumed that the strategy it had aligned with was right and did not need to be reassessed.
Lack of vision, of foresight, of strategic thinking, is dangerous and we can all see what can happen no matter how big you are or how many pairs of eyes should be looking.
Retail strategy isn’t a one off exercise. A strategic plan isn’t written in stone. It is a working document, informed by customers, competitors, the economic environment, resources available and a large dose of creativity. It is an invention test. You take the resources you have available, your strengths and understanding of your weaknesses and put them all together to determine the most productive output. The input factors though are fluid, none more so than your customers, and as they move, so should your strategic plan. The only constant in the whole exercise is your brand and the values it stands for.
Asda is licking its wounds after a weak trading period, its retail strategy looking weak in the light of evolving customer behaviour and stronger competition. The way it is putting its resources to work is no longer as productive as it could be and a strategic review is now pressing in our opinion. However, if Asda had reviewed its strategic plan earlier it may have seen a better outcome, key performance indicators around customer behaviour may have flagged up concerns, a competitor review could have alerted the C-suite to potential threats.
To perform a retail strategic review a fresh pair of eyes is needed. That’s not to say you need to bring in a retail consultant, although we are always happy to oblige, it just means that you need to look at your offer through fresh eyes, as a customer sees it. Walk through the store and leave any emotional baggage at the door; be the customer, shop like the customer, actually ask the customers you meet, and take on board what you see and learn. Be brutally honest with yourself.
If that makes you question your offer, or raises any doubts in your strategy, it is time to review and conduct thorough research to inform your direction. Every single retailer conducts strategic reviews, some more often than others, and it is not a sign of a failing business, it is the sign of a business that doesn’t want to fail.
If you would like to have a fresh pair of eyes caste over your retail operation we are always available. Get in touch.