In my 50-year career, I have seen many retailers fail. The retail graveyard is populated by once-great names: Kresge, Woolworth, Montgomery Ward, Caldor’s, Blockbuster, CompUSA, and many fine retailers that we’ve long forgotten. In their prime, all were brimming with confidence, opening stores and generating lots of jobs. In recent years, the rate of failure has increased to about five American retailers per hour. The press has named this trend “The Retail Apocalypse.” The Grim Reaper is almost certainly coming for Sears, Claires, and many others.
Why all this carnage and disruption?
The answer lies in retailers’ response—or lack thereof—to shifts in technology. In my five decades serving retailers, I’ve observed at least seven game-changing technologies that have shaken up the very foundation of our industry: the computer, the point of sale system, barcode symbologies, the Internet, broadband networks, mobile technology, and now AI.
In every cycle, retailers have adapted slowly. They’ve run their traditional business models on autopilot, taking on faith that last year’s sales will increase as always. But their sales invariable level off and plateau. Creditors circle the wagons. Cash flow goes south. And the business fails. It’s as simple as that.
The challenge for survivors is—and has always been—integration: data, process, supply chain, and customer experience. Otherwise, the old business model collides with new technology-driven imperatives. The business responds either by keeping its corporate head in the sand or awkwardly fitting silo. We see this today in almost every brick-and-mortar retailer.
If you are an established or wannabe retailer or serve or study retail, you would benefit from reading “Integrating Unified Commerce with Your Back Office—a Manager’s Guide.” Together with Rick Boretsky from Riba Retail, I wrote this eBook to elevate the conversation about data integration.