Retail guru or snake oil charmer?
It is curious to observe the dichotomy of soothsayers in today’s retail world, offering their elucidations to the ever-growing list of failed and ailing brands with the benefit of hindsight. What role has this overindulgence of advisors, gurus and snake oil charmers played during the bygone heydays – other than the riding of gravy trains?
What are the ramifications for these consultative bodies when retail leadership faces the backlash of underachievement, or the wrath of the investor? How are they being held accountable? Or is the perception of them yelling “I told you so” from the safe environs of the next punter the actuality?
Why are executives employing these advisory services and what is it they are seeking that they haven’t already at their disposal? Retailers of every size and maturity should be chock-full of an experienced, innovative and loyal workforce with vested interests in following through and delivering.
More in touch with their industry than most and with a deep reservoir of permutation in achieving goals given the right opportunity and trust. Home-grown initiatives are less inclined to dilution on their journey through the ranks of the inevitable resistor, administrator and the more-than-my-job’s-worth brigade.
Retail’s propensity for expeditious change eliminates sideliners within months, if not weeks, so what is the benefit of these peripheral advocates? Even a stint of leave demands a significant debrief on returning in order to catch up on trends and developments. How do they advise a transection of brands with integrity, while trying to avoid the risk of imposing the mediocrity of conformity they all strive to avoid. How many merchants have followed their assurances down similar dire straits because of ill-conceived objectives based on digressive judgement?
This raises the question if retail would fare better without these provocateurs, or if the onus lies with the leadership in ascertaining the professional guru from the snake oil charmer.
- What is it they bring to the table – facts or ambiguous covenant?
- Do they understand the business – how and why?
- What expertise are they drawing upon – practical or fabrication?
- Are they relevant – innovation or regurgitation?
- Qualification – how do they know the target customer better?
- Integrity – inclusive of culture and exclusive to brand?
Finger pointing is a thumbs up for the egocentric commentator, but they must expect and accept the three fingers that point back at them. Retail is for retailers – not the has-been, wannabe, trainspotter or crystal ball gazer. There is no silver bullet, nor is there a solitary knight in shining armour. There is, however, a simplicity that many forget or are coaxed away by à la mode absurdity and paradoxical alternative.
The key is in separating the wheat from the chaff and having the gumption to engage the workforce in a culture of meaningful participation and mutual recognition.
Product + Teamwork + Sensuous Experience = Customer.
Dave Farrell is a retailer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at [email protected].
Access exclusive analysis, locked news and reports with Inside Retail Weekly. Subscribe today and get our premium print publication delivered to your door every week.