The single biggest mistake made in the battle for the retail buck.

The retail industry is fraught with pitfalls, and as consumers, we see evidence of it on a daily basis.

You rock up to your favourite store and they have a sign in the window stating ‘Closing Down Sale!’ And you (with a degree of resignation or excitement) join the crowds of people scrambling to get the last bargains before the store shuts its doors for one last time.

So why is this, given we are living in such an age of consumerism? Surely retailers should be rubbing their hands together in glee and ringing up great profits?

So why aren’t retailers flourishing?

The answer is that we shoppers are fickle creatures. We want exactly what we want, exactly when we want it, and we don’t expect to pay a premium for it. We have stores across the world available to satisfy our cravings at the touch of our mobile weary fingers.

It’s truly a shoppers’ market. Which means that it’s not so hot for retailers.

For in order to survive, they must be absolutely on top of their game. Just one foot wrong and their error is spread across the Twittersphere quicker than you can say ‘bad customer service’. As shoppers we are brand loyal - until we’re not. When our loyalty isn’t rewarded, and we promptly switch to the next brand offering on our Instafeeds.

We want it all, and we want it now

So what is Public Enemy No. 1 for retailers?

Cost? Quality? Competition? No, it’s complacency about what we, as consumers, will tolerate. And the margin for tolerance has decreased dramatically in the past 5 years.

Every marketing trick in the retailer book will fail if retailers can’t meet the demands of this “I want it, and I want it now” generation. You see, nothing kills business more quickly than that dreaded ‘Out of Stock’ message. When you’re in buying mode, who has time to wait? You simply move on to the next shop, online - or otherwise – to find what you want.

Sorry retailers, but you get what you deserve

Even as a brand leader, bad customer experiences will send retailers hurtling to the bottle of the supply chain. To remain competitive, retailers MUST put in place systems which allow them to fulfil in-store or online orders quickly and economically from anywhere across the country. And if you don’t, then don’t expect any sympathy.

You see, we expect to be able to ask: ‘where can I get this in my size, and when will it arrive?’ And to receive an immediate response, then sit back and either wait for the purchase to turn up at our door or chose a collection point.  

If a retailer can’t meet demand then beware, we WILL spend our Apple pay/Ali pay/ WeChat pay dollar with another one that can help us immediately, whilst simultaneously posting our dissatisfaction on Facebook.

The reality, (or virtual reality) is that retailers must adopt fulfilment systems that integrate every aspect of the supply chain. And they must continuously evolve at the same, if not a faster pace, than the consumer.

You’ve been warned. Supply chain systems that are implemented and then left to age will quickly ensure retailers are reaching for that ‘Closing Down Sale’ sign. But we won’t really notice, we’ll be shopping elsewhere within minutes.


While she might seem to be on the side of the consumer, Donna Taylor is in fact a retail evangelist and expert in helping businesses reach their potential. To ask Donna a question one-to-one, contact her on LinkedIn.


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