Sunday, November 23, 2014

Retail faces challenges

On Friday I had the chance to spend some time in Portobello Road Market West London, a market that has quite a history but a great present and hopefully future too.
Just a fraction of the market.

It was an education to find out how it operates and the challenges that it is facing against a constantly evolving sophisticated retail environment.
Susan Garth is remembered

As retail nichés are revealed (look at how Polish specialities are now available ) and filled by the corporate High street monoliths new entrepreneurs evolve and address the customers.

When one thinks of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea it's easy to characterise the people who inhabit it as the Made  in Chelsea set but the people I saw were diverse and not atypical.

The street market is actually made up of a number of different types of arrangements for their pitches, the council is responsible for some but fixed premises retailers  also supplement their selling space with stalls and there are private areas with pitches too.

Alongside pitches run by second and third generation stall holders are younger and trendier business people aiming at the fashion conscious and collectors - it's good to see a strong  web presence as well as a twitter social media personality  supporting the market.

The other end of retail

As well as thinking about the more frivolous side of retail, chatting with a manager who works in one one of the big six retailers it was educative to be made aware of how the current competitive pressure are driving reconsideration across the large and medium sized shops we use to fill our cupboards and fridges.

Aldi and Lidl are undoubtedly causing a rethink in pricing but the effect in some cases is to dilute the offering,   I personally am not that sure that  the main consideration for the bulk of shoppers is cost - retail is actually a leisure interest and this is confirmed by Bank Holiday behaviour of the population.

The other pressure I was reminded of was that of the on-line shopper in truth the benefits for the customer  are not of a zero sum nature - delays in deliveries and the use of  (near) 'equivalents' can cause dissatisfaction for  customers.

Food-wise the only purchases we've made via the web have been wine and this is probably only every couple of months (and reliant on no/low cost delivery) perhaps this'll change but the lack of human contact and the removal of the chance for impulse buying is not appealing .

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