Against the back drop of Amazon and digital disruptors, do retailers stand a chance? This year we've seen a spate of high profile brands facing difficulties, including, most recently, House of Fraser and Poundworld. Yet the future of retail is far from bleak. The truth is that retail is evolving – and it's creating a shift in the sector that every retailer needs to be aware of.
Sally Green, Editorial Director of The Retail Hive – a community of over 250 senior retail professionals from over 80 leading brands – comments: "It's clear that traditional retail business models need to radically shift if brands are to survive."
Competition is difficult for retailers, particularly with today's disruptive technology, but the digital consumer's experience across all channels is key to brands' survival – and it is within retailers' grasp.
"Digital should harmonise the shopping experience," says Sally. "Shoppers are looking for a dynamic and vibrant experience and stores that don't keep up with that will be in trouble. However, these stores will also only survive if they differentiate themselves – whether that's by product, shopping experience or unbeatable value."
It came as no surprise when House of Fraser announced the closure of 31 stores, but with Poundworld filing for bankruptcy in the same week, it was a bombshell to retailers, as discount stores are thriving in the US. However, these closures only pose the question; why would a customer be loyal? What differentiates House of Fraser, New Look, Maplin etc from their competitors?
At The Retail Hive Live meetings, which take place regularly in the UK, Europe and America, retail leaders come together to discuss how they're responding to changing customer demands. It's becoming increasingly clear that retailers must always keep the customer at the heart of investment in technology and innovation, in order to thrive during this troubling time for the sector.
"I don't think the closure of high-profile brands will sound the death knell of traditional retail," says Sally. "Instead, retailers should use it as a mandate to think about their customers, their differentiation and their digital presence. When retailers invest in their website, they should think about how it to harmonise with all the other experiences in store."
Can retailers really compete with Amazon and win the war against digital disruptors? Unfortunately, only time and investment will tell, but Sally says, "in retail, differentiation and experience are King."