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WARNING! Huge Dummy Spit Follows!

They were the straws that finally broke this camel’s back. An accumulated build-up of 30 years of some really inane statements from underperforming shop-keepers – representing all different kinds and sizes of retail business – topped off by a couple of bleats I heard this week from retailers who are scratching their heads at their lack of forward progress at present.

“No, we tried that before and it didn’t work.”
“We’re doing so much stuff at the moment, we can’t possibly take any more on.”
“We’re not getting the sales results yet, but isn’t the new store beautiful.”

Truth be told there is no shortage of snake oil salesmen who’ll tell you that their sexy new thing is the answer to all your prayers. But the retail equivalent of building another storey on a house that has poor foundations is only going to end in tragedy.

I’m a huge supporter of innovation and newness, but let’s get real here!

There is not one retailer out there who nails the basics that are relevant to the 21st century context who is in trouble. Not one. Show me a retailer who is underperforming right now and I’ll point you to exactly what the problem is. And it isn’t the ‘phantom recession’ or the global financial crisis or the weather or the Zeitgeist. It’s the way they have built their business.

Too many retailers are wasting too much time, money and energy on things that will not get the targeted results without the right retail foundations being put in place FIRST and with the current mood of increasing regulation and vigilant prosecution this will only get worse. Any retailer in the 21st century paying penalties is either incompetent or they have convinced themselves that it is cheaper to tolerate a culture of non-compliance than fix the problem.

A retail business must ensure compliance – in all things – and build dependability into its delivery capability before it can control costs. This is the focus on eliminating the negatives. On the positive side of the ledger a retail business must build consistency before it can add flexibility that leads to the holy grail of speed. These are the elements that enable a business to control its own destiny; not the marble sourced from the south side of the hill just to the south of Carrara blended with the latest hip shade of purple.

There is also an old saying in retail – “We have 5 digits on our right hand for a reason.” That is the number of major projects a retail business, no matter how big, should be undertaking at any one time. The five highest priority projects – based on risk and return – should be the focus until one or all of them are executed to the best of your ability before you move on to the next five.

Running around like a blue-assed blowfly (K-Rudd taught me that one) may make you feel like a paid up member of the Mater Syndrome, but I assure you it is only through focus that you achieve superhero results. Not by making yourself look busy.

To all those retailers who are struggling for breath, stop wasting time, money and energy. Focus on the 5 key things that will enable your organization to move from compliant and dependable to fast. Once your organisation is capable of speed, anything you add will work the way it should rather than be yet another expensive flop because you’ve ignored the fundamentals that enable your business and your people to achieve repeatable and sustainable success and no nasty surprises. End of rant.