The Retail Industry: 2013 and Beyond

July 31, 2008
Written by Brian Minter
Perhaps one of the most focused, inward looking scans of the floriculture industry takes place each year at the Seeley Conference held at Cornell University in New York. It’s a small conference of up to 100 industry leaders and academics who analyze the industry based on economic performance. The diversity of attendees, from growers and retailers to exporters and association representatives, gives the conference great depth and credibility. Speakers with expertise on the conference’s themed topic are also invited to share their vision of the industry’s future. Their thoughts are debated in a very effective think-tank format. This year’s theme explored differentiation and how the industry can set itself apart: a key topic on all levels, but particularly between independents and the giants of the home improvement industry.

One clear message emanating from this conference was that there will be more changes in the way we retail in the next five years than there were in the last 20 years. So hang on to your hat and embrace change!

The consumer will become more empowered than ever and will have far more shopping choices. Today the amount of retailing done on eBay is $152 billion and that figure is going to skyrocket. Consumers will be travelling less to shop and will be looking for convenient destinations near home to buy more products at one stop. Ironically, it was predicted that malls will be less important, giving way to smaller, more convenient shopping locations. Large box stores will downsize to become more customer friendly and personalized.

It is predicted that we will be selling more of fewer products and specializing in a line or group of products, also known as “nicheing”, or even specializing in one particular product, referred to as “extreme nicheing” – both will become more prevalent. We had better be very sure of our product lines.

There will be a huge growth in “do-it-for-me” services, but for retailing the secret will be to help customers create and individualize. We will need to create an atmosphere of nurturing and coaching where folks can feel they are personalizing their choices more than ever before and we will need to be very much on top of consumer trends. It will be important to be on the leading edge, not in the middle. Retailers will also be held to higher standards in order to meet future consumer expectations. Transparency will be everything as consumers will be able to see online our competitors’ prices and, more than likely, our costs. Expect tech-savvy customers to research products and prices online before they decide where they will take their business.

There will be a blurring between brands and private labelling. More suppliers will be opening more of their own stores as we are already seeing, and having our own private labels will be incredibly important to maintain margins. As Starbucks and Apple Computers have already demonstrated, we need to let consumers be the co-creators of new products. Customization will be not only a differentiation but also a necessity. The historical 20/80 principle will be broken as retailing will need to be unchained to move in new directions. The key elements will be enhanced experience shopping and immediate fulfilment. Brand experience will define your store, and your team must be very close to the customers, very sensitive to their needs and empowered to exceed their expectations. You must also be aware of “sniper
fire” should you upset a customer.

Being on You Tube or blogged about in a negative capacity is not a good thing.  We the retailers will also have to become familiar with these technologies to reach more customers.

In the very near future, there will be a far more engaged and active society with expectations that you are an earth-friendly company in terms of sustainability. People will be looking at your energy consumption and use of resources, like water. They will expect you to have fair trade coffee, ethical foods, organic products and solutions and to deal with earth-friendly suppliers.

These will be the new realities of retailing that are now on a fast track. It was interesting to hear the business gurus saying that floriculture is at the peak of the business cycle and now coming down. To be successful going forward, we will not only need to do all things well but we must also be very innovative and intellectually very curious. Above all else, these two qualities will make the difference.

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