Thinking business at 33,000 Feet. Where do we go from here?
This post will continue to solidify, and hopefully express my true belief, that building relationships is, and will continue to be, the best way to grow personally; and to grow in business.
As I sit on a morning WestJet flight to Toronto, getting ready to attend the annual London Drugs Partnership Presentation, I am trying to figure out what I want to achieve at this years event. I can’t go to an event and be away from home for 8 days and at least not have a plan – right?
This event takes place every November in Toronto, and is attending by most of our Vendor Partners, all of the LD Executive, and all of the LD Merchandising Buying Group. We start early Monday morning by driving to Mississauga (The Living Arts Theatre); have a brief State of the Nation by the LD Executive team, and then an address by a prominent business leader or writer (past guests have included the likes of Bill Clinton, Walter Cronkite, General Rick Hillier, Neil Armstrong, Terry O’Reilly just to name a few). This years guest is Youngme Moon from the Harvard Business School. From there, it is back downtown to the Four Seasons for small group meetings with our Vendors; strategy sessions as it were.
This is not an uncommon event with most retailers in Canada. Most of us (retailers) get together with the Vendor community at least once a year in this type of forum. I say this, as I don’t want to be perceived as giving away any trade secrets. Not all do it exactly the way we do, but the intents are the same.
So what am I thinking about and why am I thinking about it?
As the world of “large” retail and “large” vendors (we will define this as stores of 10,000 square feet and more) expands; the consumer will have less choice of retailers, less choice of consumer packaged goods companies and less choice of pharmaceutical companies. Then we compound that with more “instant” communication (via Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, Search Engines, Skype, and just the internet in general). How does a smaller retailer survive and how does the consumer survive?
This is what I mean; the challenge, as I see it; as the respective groups above get bigger and bigger, then the only one who will really the loser in the end, is the consumer. In the short term, consumers will win as prices come down as large guys battle it out for market share (global market share these days). The larger guys being the multi national retailers and vendors. As they buy their way into consumer’s hearts by offering cheaper and cheaper goods by moving manufacturing around the world and/or as they continue to squeeze profits and margins out of product that will ultimately mean that the smaller vendors cannot survive any longer, what do we have left? We have half dozen worldwide retailers, consumer packaged goods companies and pharmaceuticals – and that’s it. A sea of sameness when we all want something a little different!
I know this sounds like doom and gloom, but unfortunately, that is how things seem to be playing out when you take the “human element “ out of business and all the focus is just costs and retails.
This is not intended to read like “sour grapes” or whining about the sizes of companies. This is not set out to criticize my competitors or any of the vendors that I deal with. This is not about poor little me, or poor you. This is not even intended to be a negative read. For those who know me, I am a pretty positive person and I honestly believe that the reason you try and understand the negatives that could come about by events or circumstances like this; is so that you can change them into positives. I think the future is brighter for the “smaller guys” in general; whether that is in life and/or in business.
I think that because the biggest challenge that will face the “big guys” and that will face the consumers, is the lack of anything different or fun. When you only end up with a few guys battling it out, you end up with a lot of the same being offered. And really, what’s so fun about that?
So how does a “little guy” survive?
Be different. I have always said that as retailers and as vendors we spend a tonne of time worrying about what our competitors are doing, that we forget to focus on what we want to do or what we should be doing. The expression my Dad always said to us was; “Worry about your own backyard, before you start to worry about your neighbors”. I business; “take care of your own business, let your competitors worry about theirs”.
On of the major advantages that these types of presentations have for us/me, is the ability to mingle and exchange ideas with our vendors, to provide a better shopping experience for our consumers. We can analyze what we do best and things we don’t do so well. We can discuss openly and truly criticize the efforts or lack thereof of things we have done or tried to do, and capitalize on any opportunities, because we are talking, we are communicating, we are building relationships! This is not a complicated game and should be treated that way. This is a game of people. Retailers, Vendors and Consumers are all people.
I think that the event that I am going to becomes more and more critical to the long term success of the “smaller” retailers. It is one of the only ways to single yourself out and really sell your ideas and truly make yourself different! Fewer and fewer retailers and vendors are seeming to understand this.
So, is it worth it come all the way across the country to do a show like this? I think so. Online is great; but it is much better when you mix in the good old fashioned face to face networking that only events like this can bring to the table.
Vive la difference.
Ciao for now @kootenayborn