The current rate of technological change is unprecedented in all known history. The power of this tidal wave is reshaping practically everything, retail included. Challenged on the new digital frontier, the industry is desperately trying to figure out what the future of retail will look like.
Imagine that two people died in their sleep last night while in hospital. One patient died because his nurse didn’t inject him with his life-supporting medication. The other one passed away because his nurse injected him with the wrong drug.
In his song Trouble Man, Marvin Gaye sings about taxes, death, and trouble.
Today, the chorus of media commentators, politicians, economists and the Reserve Bank sing a similar tune – one about interest rates, sluggish economic growth, and the deficit.
In August 2016, The Age published an article outlining yet another twist in Coles’ strategy. The intention, this time, is to reduce the supermarket’s product range by 15%, to “drive the efficiency of the business to fund grocery price cuts and safeguard its market share.”
The notion of reducing the merchandise offer to protect market share sounds strange. But, the strategy problem at Coles runs deeper than that. Let me take you on a short trip down memory lane.
Many years ago I decided to undertake a small Artificial Intelligence project – a program to predict TattsLotto numbers.
I began by loading my ‘big data’ (a few years of historical lotto results) and then developed quite a smart algorithm based on visual draw patterns. Once up and running, I was pleased to see that my trials showed that the program was able to predict lotto results with high accuracy.
Have you noticed that struggling retail businesses tend to change their senior executives frequently?
Undoubtedly, every new appointment is made with the hope of finding a leader capable of turning the ship around. If such a person is found and takes the helm, the business is gradually transformed, and its results begin to improve.
Despite the retail industry’s significant contribution to the Australian economy and its dire need for relief from misguided policy, it is constantly ignored by all sides of politics.
Read the full column on Inside Retail, Australia’s leading retail trade publication.
Pressure can make people, and retailers, do strange things.
Take for example Walmart in the US. This immensely successful retail giant was feeling some heat from competitors in the online side of the retail market last year. Obviously, retail is a sector of the economy that Walmart is accustomed to dominating, so the business couldn’t sit idle and let revenue slide.