Retail needs therapy

July 27, 2006

The retail shopping in Montreal rarely meets my needs; thus I do about 90% of my shopping online through various outlets. Often asked where I got my shoes, top, jeans, etc. I usually answer, “online!” -this often illicits a quizzical look followed by the requisite questions of logistics and a bit of curiosity, sprinkled with a pinch of astonishment. A couple weeks ago, while debating the purchase of a pair of Chie Miharas for a mere pittance (from which I abstained), I lightly pondered the future of the retail industry. I came upon a post from Extra Tasty which offers great insight and ideas on the future of retail distribution & beyond:

Having retailers at the end of your distribution cycle is fast becoming a liability rather than an asset. There are some retailers out there with a specific reputation which reflects well on your brand but it’s appearing as though retailers have been the end of the distribution pipe line for long enough. They won’t die any time soon but labels will do wise to explore other distribution channels (those don’t conflict with retail are better) which allow for a greater return to be made per unit and which have lower costs associated with bringing their ranges to market each season.

Retail can still be a viable distribution model well into the future if people are brave enough to experiment and come up with innovative solutions to several of the issues that plague it – such as high overheads, geographic limitations, intense competition and almost zero protection against major retail discounting sprees. This may be a subject for another post should I ponder on it enough.

I totally agree. However, I do have to disagree with Tasty’s statement that online retail is limited. Old guard department stores were probably the last to join the eShop bandwagon but they still did. Most popular stores/boutiques (fashion) have at least a website and most likely online shopping capabilities following suit. There are a growing number of successful online shops catering to a certain style and demographic (women 14-40 for example) peddling goods definitely more upscale than basics. Luxury eShops are burgeoning. Web-boutiques are pre-ordering and selling out. Yes, traditional retail may be dying in part due to online retail, but I think that they (traditional) must innovate – to add to “hey the cafe stocks brand x how cool!” perhaps could be “hey, the boutique serves up café and cocktails, amazing!” (some already do). Of course, I may be speaking primarily of my particular shopping habits and haunts, but traditional retail still has many legs up on online -though perhaps not the deals. The capacity of online retail only becomes limited when there is no other alternative than the eShop -that is, if retail were to go extinct.

Definitely more research and debate to come.

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