The “Retail Apocalypse” is Ragnarok, not End of Days

Daily, there are claims in media around the globe that physical retail is headed toward an irreversible end. Yet, we are also witnessing some of the most innovative and user-friendly reinterpretations of retail ever seen. Clearly, reports of retail’s demise are exaggerated.

Instead of apocalypse there is a more accurate concept. It’s a very similar, but fundamentally different idea. Here’s Wikipedia’s description of Ragnarok, the Norse legend.

“A series future events, including a great fight, were foretold to eventually result in the death a few major figures. The world will then resurface and become fertile again, the gods who survived and those who returned will meet, and the world’s population will recover.

Do you sound familiar?

Major figures in the retail industry have been caught up in a huge battle for their future. Many have not managed to escape their fate. The world that emerges after them is stronger, for both customers as well as the brands that have managed this turbulent period in ways that will soon become the norm.

Let’s take a look at where we are now, the nature and purpose of the dying order and the lessons that successful retailers have learned and are preparing to share the next steps.

Physical retail should complement

Retail trends follow a natural pattern. While commodities are moving toward scale, most people will remember a human interaction with a skilled butcher who knew your name and weekly orders by heart. This is especially true when compared to the cold, plastic-wrapped experience at the supermarket.

Online is able to deliver a more personal and helpful experience faster than offline. Online often loses the strengths of smaller outlets before it.

Many retailers have stopped hiring true experts and replaced them with cheap salespeople. Although they tried to make their spaces look like the ones before them, they couldn’t escape the corporate reality of their experience.

What can you expect from reducing the advantages physical stores have over online counterparts? They’re attempting to infiltrate the physical space while enhancing the personal experience with your most important interactions with them.

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Experience is everything

A meeting with real experts offline is essential for your most important interactions and relationships with your most valuable customers. Instead, they seem to be failing due to institutional problems. They aren’t planning to make a shift in their shopping habits or plan for any other changes — they aren’t ready for the next revival of their world.

During this time, the experimentation with different store types and their relationship to online has never been more intense or varied. People make the mistake of focusing on one channel and not the entire omnichannel customer experience.

They should ask how customers can be tracked online to offline. What role should each channel play in this process?

Some retailers will be extinguished by the apocalypse. It’s more Ragnarok, a ritual for rebirth, than the end of retail days. Every industry will be affected by technology’s impact on the world. Those who survive might consider themselves fortunate to have had their turn so quickly.

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Michaels to Close Nearly All Aaron Brothers Stores

The largest U.S. craft retailer, Michaels Companies Inc, announced on Thursday that it will close down 94 Aaron Brothers framing stores and art supply stores. The arts and craft retailer will make Aaron Brothers a shop-within-astore and offer custom framing at all Michaels stores. Michaels operates approximately 1,300 stores across the United States and Canada. Michaels purchased Aaron Brothers in 1995. The frame retailer was a 71-store chain. It has since been expanded by Michaels.

Total Retail’s View: Another example of brick-and-mortar retailers succumbing under the online pressure. Michaels won’t abandon the Aaron Brothers model. Michaels will offer the Aaron Brothers framing services via a store-within a-store model to enhance the customer experience in its stores. Michaels hopes to increase foot traffic by offering custom framing in its stores. In addition, this traffic could make incremental purchases while they wait for their photos to frame. Retailers must be creative in the way they present their customers’ experience in-store. Michaels’ ability to transform a negative experience into something positive is a credit. We’ll watch and see what happens.