Adapt to survive

Smarter solutions

There’s no denying that the retail landscape has changed significantly in the last 10 years, and it continues to change in front of our screen-adjusted eyes.

If we were to do a roll call of retail categories with storefronts today versus a decade ago, there would be many glaring omissions – or at the very least, underrepresentation of certain sub-groups.

Where are the record stores, the butchers’ shops, the video and DVD rental outlets, the haberdashery/fabric/yarn stores and the camera shops?

We could choose to view the world through sentiment-tinged lenses and sepia-toned nostalgia – or we could view the changing retail scene with enthusiasm and vision.

Just like the home-delivery milk service New Zealanders enjoyed until the 1990s, there are many redundant retail sectors today, although many of them have been transcended by better and more elaborate versions of their former selves.

We may not get milk and cream delivered daily to our doorsteps, but we do have entire meals and food boxes landing at the front door or at workplaces – including specialty meat offerings that fill the butcher shops’ shoes to some extent. Sure, you may not get a message written in pencil on the brown paper wrapper and there might not be a free cheerio thrown in for the kids, but it’s so convenient.

Record shops have all but caved to the online music download/streaming world but what goes around comes around like a record spinning – and vinyl still has a place, both for those who remember when LPs were a stock item and those for whom the novelty factor makes it all seem new again. There are some independent retailers bravely facing the changed music scene head-on and making a difference in a different era.

When industry heavyweight Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012, it was seen to be the final nail in the camera shop/film processing coffin but with the demise of retail camera/film processing stores thanks largely to the digital age and smartphone capability, there’s been good business for those in the memory-salvation game. Audio/video transfer services, projector slide to digital conversion and kiosks to allow self-printing of digital images have sprouted up – there’s been a reinvention of traditional service offerings.

And how about the travel industry? Online booking portals have superseded the neighbourhood travel agent office in large numbers. However, reimagined travel advisory services are still holding their own – particularly those that offer to handle the disruption side of the travel equation on your behalf.

Technology and a lack of time have caught up with independent haberdashery and fabric shops in New Zealand with online stores catering well to this market. A recent revival in craft pursuits and a change in attitudes towards the ethics and sustainability of the fast-fashion industry, have led to a new generation of home sewers/crafters, but it seems they may be a bit late to the physical retail store party as there are just a handful of retailers still operating in this once flourishing but now niche, space.

Like every good retailer – those who are putting the consumer front and centre and adapting to a changing purchase environment are surviving. Darwinian Theory comes into play – those that can adapt, will endure.

How are you future-proofing your business to cope with the next round of change in consumer expectations and e-commerce leaps and bounds?


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