The Inconvenient Truths (Part Four) – 4 Seasons Has Become 52.

Once upon a time we lived at a leisurely pace. We relished a world that was predictable, stress free and where the rhythm of every year gently unfolded the same way as previous years. For the purposes of the argument we’ll gloss over wars, the Great Depression, stock market collapses etc. Instead we’ll treat them as one of the causes for historically why we embraced such monotony.

We were connected to nature but not connected to the world at large.

The retail-trading year had its predictable patterns built primarily on two large over-riding seasons, traditional clearance sales and retail events. We built our merchandise and promotional strategies based on same period or same day as last year.

Fast-forward to today and we are a society fuelled by anxiety (admittedly much of which is self generated), driven by self-expression, constantly connected to a global world and desiring instant gratification. The 24/7 era has changed the way we operate at a fundamental level.

For evolutionary reasons in retail, we launch Winter in February (the hottest month of the year), we launch Summer in July (the coldest month of the year) with a big event that ‘unveils’ the looks of a season we expect to last for at least 16 weeks. There are two problems with this. Firstly we aren’t ‘unveiling’ anything because the 24/7 connected shopper has already seen it when it was first released in the northern hemisphere. The second of course is that the 24/7 connected shopper – due to the constant bombardment of information they have had to deal with and a now used to – has shortened their attention span.

They wanted the ‘new season’s’ merchandise when they first saw it and there’s no way a season lasts 16 weeks in their world.

Some of the great retailers of the world have already evolved their business models to take advantage of this social change. Zara – for example – does 10 day mini-seasons all year long. Their ranges are manufactured to sell-out and be replaced every 10 days. Their communication to the customers reflects this. What it means – to a customer that is addicted to newness and where ‘see it, want it, buy it now’ matters – is that there is an endless stream of new ideas for the customer to hook into and impulsively buy. Because they want it now. And because if they don’t buy it now it will be gone or they wont find it in their size next time they come in.

Retail opportunity today has never looked brighter. We have an affluent market with money to spend. We have capability and enablers that we couldn’t even have dreamed of 30 years ago. Society and shoppers have changed. We need to change with them. ‘What’s New” is no longer about a season but about this week. ‘What’s New Today’ is what the customer seeks every time they come into contact with retail. Shoppers are easily bored. Our staff are no different. Predictability isn’t a virtue any more unless its about commodity purchases and even then its only as it relates to efficiency for the shopper.

Every day, every week counts. It’s the same shoppers who visit your store over and over. What’s new for them to buy?