Sunday 8 April 2018

Brutal Retailing Means No Fanfare

Mick Fanning’s last surfing competition ended in a crowd carry and plenty of publicity while my trading neighbours last day on Saturday, after 25 years at QVM, got nothing more than a couple of handshakes.

This was just another day for the trader. In fact the only difference is that the stock levels on display were a bit low and instead of putting stock back into the storage boxes at the end of the day, he emptied his boxes and loaded up a trailer for the last ride.

Let me say upfront that I am not blaming anyone for that, and I am not criticising management for failing to recognise service. This is retailing. This is taking the good with the bad. This is the hard reality for many small businesses. When you complete a shop lease you simply move on, often leaving behind many friends and associates, customers and fellow business operators. In this case the trader had made a good living from QVM and was well set up for the future.

But being pragmatic doesn’t lessen the sadness in seeing a fellow trader leave our market. Like many of our market neighbours he was a good friend and I valued the many and varied discussions on a Saturday.

I am sure he will agree that he was a victim of the retail revolution. His product category (clothing and footwear) has been particularly hard hit by globalisation, online, and the influx of many overseas competitors into the Australian market. He will be leaving behind a rich contribution to QVM and has asked to stay on the casual list at QVM because “Who knows what the future may bring?”

Retailing icon Sam Walton once said “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Times change and there is no need for fanfares in the roller coaster that is retailing. We simply take stock, move on, and start the next phase of our business lives. One thing that retailing, and small business generally, teaches us, is that flexibility is very, very important. 

By Greg Smith