Keith Lipert Shares His Thoughts in Personal Introduction for BJSS’ Concrete Comparisons Report
Keith Lipert was asked by BJSS, a leading global consultancy firm based in the UK, to write a personal introduction to their Concrete Comparisons report, which assessed New York’s newest and most advanced retail concepts for their use of technology adoption. This report analyzed the strategies of retail businesses that are adapting to the changing retail industry. Keith was recently in New York for the NRF Big Show and Board meeting. Keith is the founder of the Keith Lipert Gallery and Keith Lipert Corporate gifts.
Read Keith Lipert’s forward below:
This report from BJSS is a decisive and inspiring read. It takes place against the back drop of the NRF Big Show 2019, where retailers from across the globe gathered to view and hear best practices from the retail industry. This was the year that technology dominated all, from robotics to AI, and big data to predictive weather programs.
As we review these different formats and the successful adoption of technology, it seems appropriate to step back and consider what makes sense for retailers and their ability to make profit. There is no one fix for all. Having recently visited the UK, I was struck by the very different needs of the city, town and village. It appears that customers expect different levels of technology, both in situ and in format, wellbeing, luxury and food to name a few.
My early retail education took part in London in the 1970’s. In the 80’s I was in the US supplying store groups. This was still the “Era of the Merchant Princes”- Don Fisher/Gap, Gordon Segal/Crate and Barrel, Les Wexner/ The Limited. The keys to success were to be found in strong merchandising, customer service and maintaining margin. Consolidation in the 90’s, the domination of Walmart swung the balance to scale and distribution. As retailers assess where capital should be directed, we should be careful not to lose sight of the basics – there is no substitute for exciting merchandise and customer experience. We can still look to data analytics and advances in behavioural science to further augment the customer experience and bolster margin.
Retailers have always been at the heart of the community; great stores understand this and work hard to reinforce through multiple channels.
Possibly the most important moment during the show was the presentation by Michael Evans, Alibaba USA President. It gave a sense of the fork in the road that lays ahead. He outlined their model of unifying retail as a market place, building bridges, rather than moats. He contrasted this with the Amazon model. Alibaba, he argued, was working to enable retailers to use their technology, and enable merchants to discover new resources through their platforms, thereby helping to improve margin and create healthier business models. It was perhaps the only presentation to make the case for profit and the merchant!
What is undoubtably evident though, is at least for the meantime, stores will continue to play an integral role in retailers’ success, with over 80% of all retail sales still taking place in stores. BJSS’ analysis is essential to understand who appears to have the correct strategy in-place to set themselves up for physical retail success.
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