Walter Loeb, CONTRIBUTOR
I cover major developments in the retail industry.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Original Article Published on Forbes.com
I believe that retailing is undergoing a revolutionary change. Merchants are no longer the driving force for retailers. This is a major change that will be hard to swallow. In the past merchants interacted with customers. They talked to them as a market. Now these same customers are demanding products and services that match their specific needs. In other words, the customer is now in charge.
Retail culture does not easily accept disruption. Resistance to change will be a major negative factor for many retailers who will not survive. In my opinion, accepting the influence of technology is critical for the retail industry to remain vibrant. Technology will make shopping easier. Advancements will include robotics, personal recognition, digital wallet (Apple pay), artificial intelligence, consumer analytics and other tech driven initiatives designed to make shopping exciting both in stores and on the Internet.
I have always believed that a strong merchant can shape the image of his stores and the future of his company. Now this merchant must also be a technocrat. He must accept omnichannel retailing as a new force, even though the cost factor may squeeze the profit margins. He is a strong creative force when consumers browse and shop in his stores. Through well developed technology he may bring more customers back to spend more time selecting fashion merchandise, however the merchant now must seek help from technology. I give credit to legendary creative people like Stanley Marcus, Dawn Mello, Mickey Drexler, Alan Questrom, Marty Wikstrom, Terry Lundgren, Pete Nordstrom, Alex Dillard, Gordon Segal, Michael Gould, Jane Elfers, Robert Mettler and many others for creating excitement in stores. They were all passionate about merchandising. Their heritage is that they were always on the leading edge of fashion and that they brought new and innovative home furnishing to their customers to made stores great and enduring.
Forward-thinking retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom’s have installed Magic Mirrors, Smart Fitting Rooms, as well as special features on the Internet such as Nordstrom’s Trunk Club and Neiman Marcus’ Mytheresa. There are also exciting digital developments happening at Walmart and especially at Target Stores. Yesterday’s $3.38 Billion acquisition by Walmart of Jet.com is especially noteworthy, since management now believes it can do more business on the Internet.