Canadian Retail Leaders… A Concerned Observation
Canadian Retail Leadership… A Concerned Observation
I recently had the chance to attend a Canada wide industry event in Vancouver. Most of the largest retail drugstore and grocery chains in attendance as well as many of the largest drug and CPG companies in Canada also there. Great format to exchange ideas and strategies to move retail forward in Canada.
What was also pretty cool this year was that there were many opportunities to sit in and listen to some very interesting people talk about the crazy changes in technology, or giving insight into the future of retail, giving insights on how to market to millennia’s and boomers and the differences between them, and another on the retail giant that is changing the world of retail at a ridiculously fast past, Amazon.
All talks/presentations were well presented and well thought out and left me with a tonne of questions, and yet even more ideas and insights on how to go forward in the ever changing landscape of Canadian retail. No clear answers, but just opened up my eyes and mind to the numerous challenges the industry is facing, and the countless opportunities presented in an ever changing environment. A time of turmoil and a yet a time of clarity – so very cool.
So why the title of the post? So far this reads as a scary, and yet amazing time of challenge and opportunity. I’ll tell you why…
An event that has an attendance of over 450 of this countries most talented retailers and vendors has the speaking events that I talked about above, abysmally attended, and I mean abysmally attended!
One presentation had 16 of us there and another breakfast presentation had maybe 60 of us in attendance. Even now as I write this blog post on a flight to LA, I am still astounded at the lack of participation.
Before I go into a rant, I will might be able to provide two potential excuses for some of the lack of showing up and lack of apparent interest.
Firstly the event had the times of the speakers in conflict with some of the one on one meetings. Little bit silly and a bit of a miss I would have to say. I am still trying to figure that one out as I had to do a little juggling and creative maneuvering to attend the presentations that I wanted to sit in. Should not have to do that.
Secondly, maybe the attendees are/were just a million miles ahead of me with this kind of information and there was nothing to learn by attending… maybe…
I said that I “might” be able to give two excuses.
The industry I am in is in a serious state of flux. Government regulations that are based in public opinion and not necessarily in fact, reality, or in the long term best interest of the general population. Government red tape that is perpetually handcuffing large and small alike and is having an adverse impact on the entrepreneurial spirit. A consolidation of retailers and vendors alike which is squeezing out competition. Pressure on margins that is making it difficult to expand and hire employees. A push to continue to support offshore goods at the expense domestic production and employment. And just an ever fickle and well educated and well serviced consumer that has never had so many options as to where to place their hard earned and ever shrinking monies at any given time of the day (24 / 7 / 365) anywhere in this world and doing so without ever leaving the comfort of their sofa…
What is even a little more disturbing is that the water cooler talk around the entire event is what I just talked about above. What are we going to do in this crazy retail world was the resounding discourse. How will we manage and what will become of us? That was a pretty common theme this year. Therefore, you would think with all these changes, challenges, roadblocks, and opportunities; the chance to learn what is around the corner, or what others are doing or not doing would be more than enough incentive to attend discussions of learning. At least that is what I thought and think.
I am not writing this with a solution in mind. I have no magic playbook to look upon to fix the game. I wrote this as I read of Sears getting ready for imminent demise, Jacobs and Petcetera closing stores across Canada and Target losing another ¼ billion in their first quarter of year two in Canada. At a time where Sobeys buys Thifty’s and Safeway Canada, and the Loblaws Group of Companies buys up Shoppers Drug Mart. A time where Novartis and GSK are merging their consumer lines and Bayer buys Merck to have the same net effect. A small smattering of examples of some of the significant and game changing upheavals in the Canadian retail landscape as the large become larger and the small become smaller.
You would think those kind of pressures and changes would almost ensure attendance in presentations and discussions that could provide insight in dealing with and surviving in this new world.
You would think…
Ciao for now, @kootenayborn