Before you think I am crazy this is really about merchandising, but I love a good allegory. I have been spending a lot of time on the phone and in person speaking with retailers and technology vendors about change management. Change is always hard and nowhere is this more apparent than in the merchandising silo of many retailers. During the NRF (National Retail Federation) in New York last week I had a similar conversation with more than one solution vendor. It seemingly started with “are retailers ready for more advanced methods of ……?”
This started me thinking about adoption of technology in the artful world of merchandising. Then watching Downtown Abbey reminded me of all the difficulties presented by the adoption of the toaster and the telephone. In the face of advancing technology many merchants feel threatened. Really there is no other way to put it. But if Mrs. Patmore had an electric mixer would she have been less talented in the kitchen? The answer of course is no, she would be able to work faster and beat things more effectively but the mixer without the cook is pretty much useless. What was the real impact? Less non-skilled workers were required as more automation took place.
The simple fact is that retailers must adopt advanced applications to drive more effective strategies around price, assortment, forecasting, allocation and the like. Smart merchants will realize this is the future and learn to use these tools to make better business decisions. The alternative is death. It’s not that the merchants are not valuable for their experience; rather it’s that they cannot possibly take in all of the available information and be expected to make the right decision in shorter and shorter intervals. After all this isn’t the first change. Remember that a short 30 years ago the go-to technology was a calculator and a ledger pad. Remember those days?
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