Sunday 17 November 2019

Tough Times In Retailing & Blaming The Wrong Things

There are lots of reasons why retailing at QVM is really tough at present but many we have heard over the past week are probably not relevant.

We all want to understand why business is so unpredictable. Understanding leads to corrective action, but if we don’t get the right understanding it can simply lead to frustration and sometimes even anger.

A common complaint in recent weeks concerns stall transfers, changes to permitted use, and the introduction of new Traders. These new arrangements will often change the competitive mix in the market and competition is a powerful dynamic. But each of those three ingredients (stall transfers, permitted use, new Traders) have compelling reasons for our full support. Without them, our ability to tackle this retail revolution is compromised.

Clearly we need new Traders. We have plenty of empty stalls to fill and new Traders add interesting new elements to our offer. We don’t want duplication but some crossover or competition with existing Traders can be difficult to avoid.

Changes to permitted use can change the competitive dynamic but we all need the flexibility to tweak our offer and address changes to consumer buying patterns. Part of our role as retailers is experimentation.

For similar reasons, stall transfers can be an important tool for Traders looking to adjust their offer, trial new trading arrangements, and ultimately get a better response from customers.

Management have a big responsibility here. They need to give Traders flexibility, encourage new Traders to the market, and minimise clashes. Many Traders recognise this is a tough job.

Poor business is caused by lots of reasons but at present the over-riding reason is low consumer demand. Low consumer demand is identified as the primary cause of retail decline across the globe. A competitor moving stalls, or adding products, or a new Trader with “similar” lines, is not the cause of our dilemma. On the contrary, retail is a fluid industry requiring freedom to change, adjust, and introduce new features. Our survival probably depends on it.

By Greg Smith