Fighting the Retail Riptide
The recent cries from iconic Australian retail giants confirmed what we have been hearing from High Street for a number of months. Australians are putting their hands in their pockets and leaving them there. What does Destination Melbourne have to add to the fraught conversations about the future of retail?
Aside from the fact that 31 cents in every retail dollar spent in Melbourne’s CBD is spent by visitors, we have some experience in providing leadership to a service based industry that appears to be knocked for six every time there is a natural disaster, financial crisis, corporate collapse, increase in the fuel price, fluctuations in currency, carbon tax policies etc – the list goes on.
As an industry we managed to get ourselves caught in a whirlpool of reaction and despair, we started believing our own PR and all of a sudden we lost sight of what really determines our success or failure…
The visitor experience! Good old fashioned customer service. A happy workforce that cares about your customers’ excellent infrastructure and products that makes it easy for people to have a great time and spend their money in our businesses.
Yes consumer confidence is shaky and the never ending Federal election campaign is affecting people’s spending, but the world has not stopped turning.
Successful businesses in the service sector work together; they look for ways that add value to the visitor experience and they never forget importance of the last three feet.
People do not go shopping to have a bad time… If all the talk on the radio is negative and retailers continue beating their chests with woe, we give people every reason to stay at home and shop overseas with their computers.
We are in the midst of a digital revolution. Retailers have three choices – ignore it and bury their heads in the sand; fight a rearguard action and defend their existing business model; or embrace it and look for ways that it complements existing business activity.
As a small business Destination Melbourne has been through all three phases (sometimes on the same day!). There is growing realisation in the team that change and uncertainty provide the perfect medium for innovation. We can learn from the mistakes made by the big boys, but we cannot afford to wait until they have perfected the solution. The digital environment rewards entrepreneurship and fools will continue to suffer.
In the highly competitive worlds of tourism and retail the worst thing you can do is stand still. If you are still looking for ways to grow your business in this challenging and exciting time, step out outside and visit the business owner next door. Explore way in which you may be able to work together, join your industry association or create a traders group. Stand up, with a positive mindset and participate.
Get online and check out which distribution platforms are working; talk to your suppliers about new opportunities to grow volumes; support events that support your industry… and most importantly remember that it is the quality of the visitor experience that will make or break the future of the business.