By Brian Walker,The Retail Doctor Group

This is a sad period for our retailers as we mark the passing of that most valuable of institutions, an institution in retailing that dated back to very ancient times.

The villages that enjoyed its artisans, craftsmen, street theatre provided much of its entertainment and flavour in the buying and selling of its products. The merchant was the entertainer, the maestro, the person who worked their stage, knowing each customer by name, little details about them recited in this humorous anecdotal manner.

Our demised friend was so simply the source of energy and entertainment that pervaded our retail offerings. It is evident in many of our great literary and theatrical classics the important part the merchant played in society. So how did it happen that we have moved from Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice where the merchant plays a pivotal role in the lives of the characters to the likes of Confessions of a Shopaholic?  

A few weeks ago, I attended the World retail congress in Hong Kong and the Ebeltoft group meeting in Shanghai ( Whilst there were many great examples of retail on show, on many occasions I could have been anywhere in the world – such was the sameness of the retailers offer. It just becomes so dauntingly obvious that the merchant is in serious demise in these environments.

The growth of mass replication of shopping malls and retail chains alike has created a standardisation of the retail offer. A finite number of brands are now pursuing scale as the means to derive a profit that stays, in many cases, marginally ahead of increasing cost curves. The room for the individual merchant is becoming less and less viable in such a large scale retail environment. Not that I advocate a free for all Laizze Faire approach however, I do question whether have we moved too far away from the traditional merchant in our retail offerings.

What can we attribute to this tragic demise?

In the end, it’s appealing to both heart and mind that converts a shopper to a customer. Our Retail Doctor Group surveys consistently reinforced that executing the basics consistently well with innovative and exciting store presentations was the surest way to turn shoppers into customers. The merchant works their shop like no other, constantly motivating sales through theatre and working their displays

We are also reminded that customers can be complex beings, seemingly wanting the predictable (stock, presentation sales and service) and having it wrapped in the unpredictable (new, exciting, different and entertaining).

Customers want to know that you have the product, that they can return it if they have to and that they will experience a positive interaction in a well-presented store. At the same time they desire confidence, trust and a relationship with a skilled and sincere merchant in an innovative and reputable store environment.

Skillfully delivered retail design and format, wonderfully appropriate merchandise assortments, helpful and knowledgably service, served with the aplomb of a merchant  all combine to produce a ‘fit’ retailer’s offer.

Mall after mall of similar look and feel, replicated across the world makes for a sterile, homogenous environment that would cause the merchants to turn in their grave.

Happy ‘Fit’ Retailing
The Retail Doctor

Contact us for a complimentary conversation about our business fitness programs. Visit email or phone 02 9460 2882.