Tuesday 28 March 2017

There Is Nothing New About Amazon

There is a bit of Amazon in every trader at the Queen Vic Market but exposing that talent is a demanding task.

Games retailer, GameStop, has over 7,500 stores worldwide and this week it said it is reducing that number by 2 - 3% because more of its customers are downloading their computer games online rather than going into stores. "So what!" you might say. The significance is that this is just one more example, amongst the many thousands of examples, of technological innovation disrupting retail.

Retailing is changing at a rapid rate and one of the biggest changes is the predicted disappearance of cash as early as 2020. That is just a few years away. My first thought is for street beggars. Their supply of "spare cash" will dry up. But what about Queen Vic Market Traders who still only trade in cash?

We have a few dinosaurs amongst our Trader ranks. Those who refuse to engage with technology because we are a traditional market that doesn't need modern contraptions - try telling that to the majority of our customers.

A big fuss is being made about retail disruptor, Amazon, as if they are some mythical beast that we have never come across before. Retailers like Amazon have been around for centuries. Sears Roebuck disrupted retail back in the early 1900s when they combined catalog sales with bricks'n'mortar department stores - Gasp!

In 1979 our own Queen Victoria Market opened on Sundays, allowing customers to shop for the first time on a Sunday and introduced a whole new transition to on-demand shopping. Yes, QVM has been a retail disruptor.

Ali Baba allowed consumers to deal direct with large scale manufacturers rather than through a complex structure of importer, wholesaler, and retailer. It revolutionised consumer understanding and reset the concept of retail value. Damn them!

And let's stop calling "technology" the enemy here. We are simply watching innovation at play and innovation has been around since the dawn of mankind. Digital technology just happens to be the vehicle for much modern innovation in retail.

If you are one of those traders who wants to sit back and wait for management to bring back "your type of customer" you may want to rethink your strategy. Traders are the real entrepreneurs here and traders need to adapt to their customers wants and needs. Logic says it is never too late to join the party, but hopefully we can do that before your business and mine succumbs to the opposition in this retail revolution.

Bringing out the "Amazon" in each of us is a big task and, particularly because technology is involved, it will need collaboration. Management and traders have never needed each other so much.

By Greg Smith