Think of all the great retailers that pioneered new approaches to the market; Amazon, Circuit City, Kmart, Macy’s, Sears Roebuck, and Tesco, to name just a few. Regardless of their current levels of success or failure there is no doubt that each of these retailers played a unique role in changing the face of the retail market. Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery but as a business strategy it has limitations. These companies achieved great success by doing something that no one had done before. That’s not to say that awareness of competitive strategies is a fool’s game. If a company can find weakness in a competitor’s business model it should go after it with gusto. In truth it’s usually the visionary pioneers that change the landscape and reap tremendous rewards. Copying the success of another organization without simultaneously discovering and taking advantage of the others weakness is merely a stop gap measure.
In the consumerized retail marketplace me –too works even less well. We are seeing a rate of change that far outpaces most large organizations ability to adapt. As a result consumers are seeking other alternatives.
As a retail leader you must stay on top of the consumer and technology trends that are drivers of retail. Questions like how do we become more like Amazon, Apple and others are misguided (ah yes we remember the Ron Johnson years at JCP). Rather you must figure out where the consumer is GOING and match your core capabilities to their desires. The truth for many retailers today is that the consumer is moving further away from those things that your business model does well. Almost as important is to determine what to prune. Pruning is painful but necessary as part of any realistic strategy. As old competencies become less attractive they must be cut off. Sometimes this will occur before the end of its usefulness to ensure that investments in the new competency are made.
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