Opinion

An open letter of support to retail’s leaders

Dear Retail Leaders,

This is your moment. Strong leadership is needed – you must admit where you are and take action. And if you are currently thinking that this moment is not the right time to act, ask yourself what more you require, beyond a global pandemic, shifting customer behaviour and the demise of your retail peers, to make in-store investment a priority?

Stabilising will not be enough. You must deliver the quarter, but you must also protect the future.

The sad reality is that many stores are feeling (and showing) the effects of long-term under-investment – a problem that must be quickly remedied to turnaround their fortunes. As retail now moves forward from simple act of re-opening stores, customers will be right to ask: Is that it? Is this the best it gets?

Those retailers that are thriving by exceeding customer demands and expectations. That with speed and urgency.

Yes, times are difficult right now and, for some, calling a halt to in-store investment can feel like the only choice. But, trust me, when you look back, you will realise that a little retail rethink (and investment) was the best decision you ever made.

There is much to do. A need to understand, accept, and confront challenges.

Investing in your stores should not be seen as a cost. They have inherent value to your business and your customers. By choosing to accept ‘good enough’, you’re essentially saying that short term savings are more important than long term survival. When you pause for even a second to think about this, you realise it’s not true.

Now is the time to reaffirm your commitment to physical retail – the prize for doing so is enormous. And unless you act now, you risk leaving it too late.

There is much to do. A need to understand, accept, and confront challenges. So why not share the burden of delivering success?

Retail cannot rely on pent-up demand and stored shopper cash to drive in-store sales forever.

Retail leaders are flooded with information, but trusted, unbiased information is surprisingly scarce. I’ve seen with my own eyes – through the support Visual Thinking has provided to countless retailers – the kind of decisive strides that can be made when retail’s C-Suite have a better understanding of what is really going on within their stores.

My advice to retail leaders I work with is to always be ready to disrupt your own thinking. Engage with tough ideas and challenge your assumptions. If there seems to be an obvious answer, if the conversation is comfortable, this is your signal to work harder. Invite your entire senior leadership team to objectively look again at your stores through customer eyes, seek out the root causes of problems, and start moving stores and people forward.

In the months ahead, retailers will need to up their game to achieve sales in-store. Retail cannot rely on pent-up demand and stored shopper cash to drive in-store sales forever. If we want physical retail, our commitment must be demonstrated through action.

That will send a signal to shoppers that your stores are not just open for business, but that your brand is here to stay.

By Karl McKeever

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