iDEA'S FROM THE EDGE
±1 Chain Stores
Yeah, we totally see what you mean, towns and cities are looking strangely clone-like these days!
This became abundantly clear when travelling through the UK, France, and Spain, while each has its own beautiful style of architecture. The main streets had almost identical shops! Not only was this slightly confusing geographically, but it really subdues the sense of adventure you feel when travelling. As familiar logo's with well-researched fonts and highly agreeable colours, float around fighting to catch the eye, and embed themselves further into our psyche
Those naughty corporate chains have managed to seize our main streets, not only sucking the life out of local businesses but blunting our ascetic vision in the process. One bizarre aspect of this corporate occupation scarily noticeable is the lack of charm or emotion, displayed in interior layouts and the staff, who are oddly similar in attitude.
However much big brands throw ethos, mission or identity at us. The truth is they all adhere to the same business model, which has been burned into the stores and staff personality, and it's just not attractive.
Maybe the retail industry's karma has arrived, their involvement in making goods in third world countries, where conditions, long hours, dishonest pay and abuse of labour has somehow become ingrained within the sprite of the goods they sell and the staff they employ
The devastating effect corporate brands have had on smaller towns is evident. Their ability to buy in bulk, negotiate lower prices and sell the same goods at rock bottom prices killed local trade, but now they themselves are under attack!
Around the world sales in corporate retail shops are falling faster than a professional footballer, the growing strength of online shopping is looming large and chains are suffering. There's an over-abundance of shops, so they're failing at an alarming rate. It's leading to a rapid shrinking of jobs in this industry, which will only get worse as the technological revolution takes over
These are hairy times for corporate brands, they must adapt or find themselves becoming a retail dinosaur
So here's an idea…Let's restrict corporate chain stores!
Okay, if you are a corporate brand, your clever marketing folk may view this as a step-down, your finance director may hark on gross incomes or spout on about long-term property agreements. Various agencies you hire may claim it is about social engagement, being competitive, advertising, price points or some other past century tried and tested strategy
It's blatantly obvious chain stores are approaching a cliff-end. A new type of consumer is here, fed up and looking for a fresh experience. The bright news is, there's an opportunity, which may benefit everyone concerned...
The internet is, without a doubt, the most powerful marketing tool the world has ever known. While stores are trapped within a traditional system of having overheads, rent, rates, staff costs etc. Online companies are free from these costs, compounded by the fact, online shopping is a far more convenient and comfortable experience
In our fast-paced lives, the thought of trudging around hoping to find the right item in the right colour or size has become less attractive. Why encounter a human robot or suffer a dull interior when we can search in comfort, click a few buttons and voilà it arrives at the door a few days later
This is not a new phenomenon, in the 60's and 70's catalogue shopping by post was massive in Europe and the USA.
Like all great concepts, its based been a previous success that has been remixed, in this case using the internet
Restricting corporations to one store in a big town and say two stores in a city, may actually help them - it's no surprise Apple stores are full because there's usually only one or two around. This has the advantage of reducing and squeezing overheads, staffing, stock, and customers all into one location, so profits are higher. Plus it gives the place a funky busy vibe, where people can touch, feel, test then decide if they want to buy, its an exciting experience! Okay, let's accept Apple have some cool products and the most successful company on earth right now, but they should inspire and be the model, not the exception.
Corporate brands identifying the negatives of online shopping, then acting upon them is not a novel idea. However how about thinking further away from the box? One major negative is receiving your item. People are at work or don't wish to get stuck waiting for a parcel. Stores could capitalise on this, you order from their online site, receive a pick-up date then collect at the store, let's expand this...
Consider it like an airline ticket - arrive with the confirmation on your phone, scan into a machine, go to a seated cafe type area, enjoy a drink/smack, use free wi-fi and boom your item is called, decided if you want it, and off you go.
For clothing you're called to a dressing area, try on your item, then decide. Imagine going from store to store knowing your item, in the correct size, colour etc are waiting for you. Sounds like a far more attractive trip doesn't it?
Stores would be selling to the online generation while earning on food, drinks plus people will always pick up extra items when in-store. It would be a great way to communicate the brands' ethos via design, service, atmosphere while offering real selection options - this is Apple's brilliantly simple secret
Big brands are already closing unprofitable stores in smaller towns, cities are not so affected as they have a constant flow of customers. A benefit of corporates leaving smaller towns, it that it opens the way for local business to thrive within communities. Most people like the idea of supporting local shops rather than a chain, it also feels good because we're actually connecting to a real person who cares about their products
Perhaps its time to rethink what the town center provides lets re-imagine uses for these buildings. A solution to long-term property agreements could be resolved by dividing buildings into smaller spaces for local businesses and artistic experiences. There are not enough things to do in town centres, the current message is; we are only here for one thing...consumerism.
Town planners must take responsibility and make positive moves to engage people - only having retail shops in towns obviously no longer works. People more and more want experiences. Art and culture should be considered as essentials. People want to improve to discover new things. Gyms in towns prove this case. How about giving artists opportunities to create experiences - it would attract people, while showing there is more to town life then just shopping!
No doubt local artists and retailers would be happy in prominent local locations, but often rents and rates prevent this. This is where local authorities must get involved, say by removing property taxes for locals. Perhaps big brands who own or lease buildings should consider earning some rental income without overheads. Something like this could really support and invigorate a community.
Without doubt, we must get away from cheap overseas goods, its not only the terrible working conditions but also the low-quality materials being used, so we end up getting poorer products with shorter lifespans. This is causing an enormous amount of refuse, currently being sent to landfill sites in third world countries. A crazy situation whereby we're dumping our garbage onto the poorest nations on earth, who happen to be the same people making that garbage!
The goal behind every single corporation is growth and profit, while profit is not a bad thing, it's not sustainable long-term on a local level. The biggest advantage of restricting corporate chains would be for us. Our surroundings have a deep effect on us. Yes lets regenerate, but with diversity. Towns of the future should be a place for local traders and artists to flourish side by side.
Most importantly, we'd be doing the right thing locally and globally.
There are just a few meditative thoughts on this vast topic from 3000monks
So what do you say...For or Against?
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