The last decade saw many famous retailers go out of business, names that we grew up with are no longer with us. Names like Thomas Cook, Toys R Us, Borders, BHS, Staples, Blockbuster, Maplin, Comet, Tie Rack, Pound World, Barrett's and Phones4u.
I don't know if my brother is just unlucky, but he worked at Comet, Phones4u, Maplin, Staples and was offered a job at Toys R Us. I now fear for the future of the shop he currently works in (let me know if you want his CV.)
At the beginning of the last decade, many retailers were still in denial and e-commerce was still a relatively small part of most retail businesses. We saw the tipping point arrive and now there's no going back to the old days. I don't think retailers understood what the tipping point meant, and busy town centres that were all hustle and bustle are now more like ghost towns with retailers begging landlords to reduce rents and the Government to change business tax rules. At the same time, more prominent city centres have grown and are busy because peoples shopping habits have changed forever.
People are shopping in the bigger cities and shopping centres, they make a day of it by spending time to have something to eat and drink while small towns are empty, void of the big names that people want to shop at. It was simply too late for some retailers, new players came and took their business from right under their noses. New players created brands that sound like they've been with us for many years.
Some retailers woke up and embraced diversity, what I mean by diversity is selling products that the next generation and people from different backgrounds want to buy. Selling products in a way that meets the lifestyle habits of the next generation. For instance, Greggs is doing very well by selling vegan food. I'm surprised that other retailers haven't caught on and started selling more vegan food.
M&S started selling ready-made halal meals, why did it take them so long to understand Muslims working in city centres want to eat ready-made halal meals, and they want to buy a lot more than the small selection that is currently available. I saw a Pret A Manger in Manchester selling only vegetarian food, what a great idea. These are all example of selling things that people want to buy, it’s not a complicated formula.
I'm amazed when I talk to my daughters, who are in their 20s why they buy certain things and where they buy them from. It's not about employing expensive consultants, it's about talking to the people that are not buying from you, these people can give you valuable insights as to what you need to do to become the retailers of choice in the future.
The new decade will be very different from the last decade, people are not going to stop shopping or spending money, they're just going to change how and where they spend their money. New names will carry on taking business from old retailer's, people's habits will carry on changing, and to survive you've got to adapt and change, it's as simple as that.
I can't predict what's going to happen, all I know is that some retailers will carry on blaming the weather and that change will accelerate, and the answer to what’s going to change is not in a spreadsheet.
(I wrote this article for my column in Retail Week.)