MMG: What trends are you seeing in the retail space?
CC: Retail is an incredibly dynamic industry. It has become an innovate-or-die marketplace, demonstrated by the sheer number of retailers who did not survive the economic downturn and went bankrupt over the last several years. On a macro industry level, segments continue to blur. Mass merchants are drug stores. Drug stores are grocery stores. Grocery stores are dollar stores. Dollar stores are mass merchants. Similarly, channels continue to proliferate and also blur. It’s no longer catalogs and brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers now enable consumers to shop by mobile phones, tablets and PCs … through apps, websites, social media sites and blogs. A retailer today must compete on these terms to be successful: increase the frequency of visits, increase the basket size (how much consumers buy per visit), improve the customer experience and, overall, maximize sales.
Not surprisingly, the art and science of retail has changed dramatically as well. Retail operations are now built on a backbone of information systems that continually use data to optimize decision-making. From store locations to store layouts, from inventory levels to pricing and marketing, information technology plays a central role in optimizing a retailer’s performance. And in many cases, it’s become a non-negotiable requirement for retailers even to conduct business. While today’s supply chain is more global than ever, with products sourced and transported from countries around the world, the local market offering (online or offline) is more niche, tailored and customized than at any point in the era of big retail.