Retail Observer

March 2021

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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Page 53 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM MARCH 2021 54 Mike Whitaker Training Trends I magine for a moment being alone in the woods. The sky is pitch- black, visibility is zero, and you must find your way out of the woods. No trusty smartphone or flashlight – you must simply put one foot in front of the other and begin walking amidst uneven terrain, looming trees and other obstacles, and unknown sounds all around. Are you feeling a bit uneasy? Or perhaps you're a retail leader, and it all just sounds like 2020 in a nutshell. I'm not going to spend time recounting the challenges of the past year – they were too many to number. But as JFK said, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." To lead was to learn, and independent retailers have adapted with a speed and grace that belies the levels of stress they carried, the long hours they worked and the sheer magnitude of what they were up against. But the best lessons are those we leverage going forward, and as the pandemic subsides, the most successful leaders will lean on their learnings of the last 12 months to take their teams and businesses to new levels. What did we collectively learn? The lessons were many and varied across regions, categories and individual businesses – but many were also universal. Here's a look at the six most frequently mentioned lessons I've gleaned from independent retail business owners in the past several months. 1. Shopper behavior can change in a heartbeat. One year ago, independents would have laughed at the notion of video consultations, appointment shopping, and an exponential rise in ecommerce for durable goods. Chat wasn't prevalent in the industry, and websites, for many, were still a second or third-tier priority. In the blink of an eye that all changed. The pace of change isn't subsiding, and great retail leaders will be ready. 2. Technology is your best friend. Independent dealers have historically been slower than the industry as a whole to embrace the digital movement. The shift to digital was already picking up steam but leapt ahead at breakneck speed in 2020. Leaders realized that success – even survival – hinged on the right tools and tech to continue engaging shoppers, even when the doors were closed. These integrations will continue, and the connectivity they bring will propel the best leaders and their companies to the front of the line for the evolving shopper. 3. Sell what's in stock. The practice of just-in-time inventory is dead. Instead, leaders realize the vulnerability of supply chains and the importance of maintaining the highest level of on-hand inventory possible. Nothing hurts more than an inability to serve a customer who's ready to purchase products you don't have in your store. In stock, on hand and ready to deliver wins the day. 4. Diversify your supplier base. The old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket comes to mind here. It's not just about having multiple suppliers, though. It's about reliability, location and strong partnerships. A merchandising plan that allows quick shifts, easy logic and high probability of availability can't be missed. 5. Put your people first. 2020 was the longest period of uncertainty your team has ever faced. As most retailers explored risk management and agile work arrangements at record levels, increasing the morale of teams has never been more important. Savvy leaders have engaged their teams at record levels. As a result, they're keeping their best people, attracting top talent and building their team of the future today. 6. Overprepare. Most retail leaders felt prepared for 2020, but as the pandemic took hold it became quite evident that most simply were not. However, those who had built their digital infrastructure, invested in their teams, and diversified their supplier base, and as a result were able to quickly adapt, won. Those who were playing catch-up and tending to all the things they'd previously procrastinated, suffered. Now we're pondering what comes next. And those who'll win in 2021 and beyond are preparing right now, not knowing the full answer. Join them. 6 LESSONS RETAILERS LEARNED DURING AN UNPRECEDENTED YEAR Mike Whitaker, Nationwide Primemedia RO

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