What Do The Marquis de Sade & Retailers Have In Common?

Every retail business in the world is never short of ideas. Some ideas have the capability of transforming the organization, of blasting it into the stratosphere if confidently and expertly executed. Many can just make things better, faster or cheaper. But – just like the gulf between consumer sentiment and behaviour – there is a massive gap between ideas and action in retailers.

The missing ingredient that ignites action is motivation.

And as the Marquis de Sade so eloquently proved, motivation can stimulate in two very distinct forms. Pleasure or pain. Both can be equally motivating depending on the circumstances. Reward or penalty. Joy or despair. Success or failure. The energy lies in the extremes.

The great truism in retail – as it is in most businesses – is that comfort leads to complacency and a lack of desire to change.

When economic cycles change and growth is not something that can be taken for granted the competitive context creates opportunity. Right now we are beginning to see the first signs of big winners and big losers. There are a growing number of retail businesses that are starting to get very motivated indeed and that will change the competitive context for everyone.

We are about to see the dawn of a great deal of activity. This will lead to innovation and a renaissance for retail. Combine slowing growth, sustainability and bored shoppers and you have a recipe for change that will demand new experiences, new ways of doing things and new products that excite all the stakeholders in the mix.

Jack Shewmaker – the former CFO of Wal-Mart and consultant to the Woolworths Group – once said, “In the future, the only competitive advantage that is sustainable is speed”. Organisations that embrace constant change are the ones that stay relevant and enjoy sustainable profit growth. The pleasure.

The Marquis de Sade used both pleasure and pain to motivate and both are at play in retail through choice or imposition. The choice is up to you. Innovation in your retail business can be motivated by pleasure or by pain. You can change willingly or you can have change forced upon you.

Perhaps I’m too much of a hedonist but I’ve always preferred pleasure.

And so has every best practice retail organization I’ve ever studied. Make change your friend. Embrace innovation that keeps you relevant and gives you competitive advantage that drives profit growth.

Now is a very good time to act and a very good time to reap the rewards.