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Traditional retail, at its core, relies largely on being a middleman. The typical multi-brand retailer sits between the manufacturing community and its target consumers, performing valuable intermediary tasks like selecting the right products for the markets it serves, carrying local inventory, owning and creating attractive environments to sell the product, and so on. Alas, it’s precisely this other part of the middle that is now being squeezed.

The majority of great retailers in history achieved their success by building great stores, assembling a compelling mix of merchandise, presenting it in interesting ways, and providing service that meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations. A Saks Fifth Avenue or a Harrods, even if they carry a healthy percentage of their own private brands, still sells a wide assortment of other vendors’ stuff. …


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We don’t have to spend much time among our friends or on social media to run across the never-give-up, quitting-is-for-losers, in-it-to win-it ethos. There’s a whole socially acceptable narrative built around the concept that we must keep pushing no matter what. It’s ridiculous. It’s wrong. And it can be harmful.

Perseverance, grit, determination, and hard work are certainly important to achieving our goals, be they in innovation or just about anything worth striving for. But knowing when to stop can be as valuable as getting started in the first place. Knowing when-and having the courage-to quit is exactly what frees us up to go work on the next promising idea. …


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Many of us seem to be praying to a god of unending, unrelenting perseverance.

If your social media experience is anything like mine, it’s not long before some form of never-give-up-ism hits your timeline. Then, most often, that person’s followers pile on with a hearty “you go girl”, #staystrong or encouragingly pithy aphorism (“it’s only a failure if you give up!”)

Not only is this way of thinking often wrong, it can go completely against our own best interests.

To be sure, grit and determination are admirable qualities. …


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During the COVID-19 crisis we are experiencing tremendous innovation and experimentation on the part of just about every retailer. From curbside pick-up (and other forms of “contact-less” delivery), to appointment shopping, to the overall hyper-growth of e-commerce, and more, we’ve scarcely seen so much change in such a short period of time.

In particular, many are applauding legacy retailers for embracing the notion that most customer journeys are digitally-driven and that online shopping and brick-and-mortar stores can work in tandem to produce remarkable results. To this I say, “Really?” adding: “Glad you finally woke up, Rip Van Winkle” (note to Millennials: look him up). We should not be applauding these brands. Instead, we should be asking what took them so long? …


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Despite the relentlessly bleak news of sales declines, store closings and retail bankruptcies, Tractor Supply Company not only reported strong quarterly sales but announced plans to open 75 to 80 new brick-and-mortar locations. While clearly benefitting from some of the profound shifts and spending distortions brought on by the pandemic, TSC continues to be one of the many retailers that failed to get the retail apocalypse memo.

The “retail apocalypse” narrative has been one of the more pervasive in recent years, amplified even more loudly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the crisis, those that advanced the notion that physical retail was dead or dying conveniently ignored the fact that lots of retailers, big and small, were continuing to open quite a few new locations, that sales consummated in brick-and-mortar stores had grown every year for more than a decade, and that a brand’s physical presence often played an important role in driving e-commerce and growing overall customer lifetime value. …


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Oh sure, maybe we’re ready for the easy stuff. Ready to leave for work, make dinner, hop in a Lyft, do the laundry, pay the credit card bill.

But the work that matters, that enlivens the spirit, that changes us, our tribes, and the world around us? That’s a whole different deal.

The journey to remarkable is much the same. Taking the plunge can be scary. But naming our fear is helpful, because it is our fear that keeps us stuck. Resistance is the dragon we must all slay. …


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The bullets that killed RadioShack, Sports Authority, KB Toys, Sharper Image, and many other once iconic brands were fired long before their respective downward spirals of cost cutting and store closings began. They weren’t legislated out of existence. Consumer…


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If we try a new tactic, it might not work. It might be too early, too late, too expensive, too small a market, you name it. We might mess up the execution or spend too much money to possibly earn a decent return. Indeed, if we build it, they (the customers) might not…


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The following is an excerpt from Chapter 4 (“The Collapse of the Middle”) of my new book. Last week, nearly a year later, I went back to the mall that is referenced below. Sadly, nothing has changed. I guess the Austin area is immune from the forces of digital disruption and seismic shifts in consumer behavior.


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“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY, THE SUN ALSO RISES There are plenty of times when events catch us completely by surprise. Maybe what happened was completely unpredictable. Maybe it was so…

About

Steve Dennis

Keynote speaker & strategic advisor on retail innovation. Top 10 retail influencer. Senior Forbes contributor. Best selling author of “Remarkable Retail.”

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