Reasons to be cheerful……
I paid a visit to the Tate Modern yesterday; fascinating experience. This was my first visit and if you’ve never been I urge you to give it a try. More than anything else it is an experience in viewing things from a different perspective and keeping an open mind. I was very sceptical at first, after all there are plenty of weird and wonderful people in this world, but came away with a new found, well if not admiration (some were truly wacky) but at least a sort of understanding. After all there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Perhaps the most significant thing about the Tate Modern is that it encourages individualism and creativity, two qualities which make retail such a dynamic and exciting place to be. It also resulted in a sense of optimism that anything is possible and all ideas are valid. Again, we see this increasingly on the High Street and I feel that is a reason to feel positive about the outlook. We all know that austerity is the new normal and is here to stay – for the foreseeable future at least. Under normal circumstances austerity and optimism are not easy bedfellows but what appears to be emerging from the depths of a near triple-dip recession (thank you 0.3%!) is that we are all, retailers especially,finding ways to adapt and cope.
Last week I attended the Retail Forum and found it a very interesting event. The after dinner speaker was Monty Halls (ex Marine now documentary maker, part time crofter, fisherman……) and the theme he adopted was that as human beings we are all incredibly adaptable. We are the ultimate predator he maintained and that as such we are all survivors. Never is this truer than when we are faced with adversity. A good example of this is the soaring success of companies such as Poundland and we were also fortunate to hear from their CEO Jim McCarthy. Value and a real sense of purpose clearly runs through the whole organisation and is in their DNA. How many of us have now visited a Poundland store whereas a few years ago it simply wouldn’t have been on our radar?
But the other fascinating characteristic of the economic climate and the effect it is having on consumers is that whilst pretty much all socio-economic groups will now shop in a Poundland or ALDI or Lidl where previously they had not, those same people who need to budget carefully will do this to help save for the Prada handbag or TAG Heuer watch or some other luxury item. So we are seeing a polarisation in shopping behaviour never witnessed before and this is likely set to continue.
Another phenomenon we are seeing is the relentless quest for convenient. The big supermarkets don’t turn much of a profit from home delivery but most are in it because they have to be. However, convenient – that is the desire by the consumer for their shopping, especially grocery, to be just that – convenient for them is gathering pace. Several of the big supermarkets are trialling drive through click and collect pickup points. Our lives are so busy now that even booking a 1 hour slot to stay in for the home delivery is inconvenient; why wait in when you can stop by your local supermarket on the way home, drive up to the collection point, show them your receipt (on your smartphone) let your goods be loaded into the boot and drive off without ever leaving your car? Target time from arriving to driving away is in the region of 2 minutes – why wouldn’t we?
So amidst the gloom and doom which the media and some commentators would have us believe whilst it is still extremely tough on the High Street there is cause for optimism. Whether it be online or in-store shopping has never been as rewarding an experience as it is today – long may it continue.