iDEA'S FROM THE EDGE
±1 Chain Stores
Yeah, we see entirely what you mean, towns and cities are looking strangely clone-like these days!
This became obvious when exploring the UK, France, and Spain, while each has its distinctive architecture. All the main streets had identical shops! Familiar logo's with well-researched fonts and agreeable colours, fight to embed themselves further into our psyche. Not only is this geographically disturbing, but it dulls the adventure of travelling.
We've conceded control of our main streets to corporate chains, like movie vampires they've lured us with bright window displays, and sucked the life from local trades, unquestionably blunting our ascetic vision in the process. One bizarre aspect of this occupation scarily noticeable is the absence of charm within the interiors and staffs zombie-like attitude
However hard big brands throw ethos, mission or identity at us. The truth is they all adhere to an identical business model, its burned into the stores and staff personality, it's just not attractive
Maybe the retails karma has arrived - their involvement in goods made in third world countries, and those conditions, long hours, dishonest pay and abuse of labor seems ingrained within the products they sell and staff they employ
We are all aware of the devastating effect corporate brands have had on smaller towns. Their capacity to buy in bulk, forcefully negotiate lower prices, and often sell own brand goods at rock-bottom prices has killed trade locally and nationally, but now they are under attack!
Sales in retail shops are falling faster than a professional footballer, the growing strength of online shopping is rising, and chains are suffering. There's an over-abundance of shops, which are closing at an alarming rate. Leading to a rapid shrinking of jobs in the industry, this can only get worse as the technological revolution takes over
These are hairy times for corporate brands, they must modify or risk becoming a retail dinosaur
So here's an idea…Let's restrict corporate chain stores!
Okay, if you are a corporate brand, your smart marketing folk may view this as a step-down, your finance director may hark on gross incomes or spout long-term property agreements. Various agencies you consult may claim it is about social engagement, being competitive, price points or some other past century strategy
It's blatantly clear chain stores are nearing a cliff-end. A new type of consumer is here, fed up and demanding a fresh experience. The bright news is, limiting the number of stores may be an opportunity where everyone benefits...
The internet is unquestionably the most powerful marketing tool the world has ever known. While stores are trapped in the conventional system with overheads, rent, rates, staff costs, etc. Online companies are free from these obligations, 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 staff zombie or suffer dull interiors when we can search in comfort, click a few buttons and voilà it arrives at the door
This is not a new phenomenon, in the '60s 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 and uses the internet
Restricting corporations to one store in a big town and say two stores in a city, may actually help profits - Apple stores are full because there's usually only one or two around. This has the advantage of reducing overheads, concentrating staffing, stock, and customers into one location. 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 admit Apple has some cool products and currently the most successful company on earth, but they should inspire as the model, not the exception.
Corporate brands should identify 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 online is receiving your item. People are at work or don't want to get stuck at home for a parcel. Stores could capitalise on this - how about ordering online, 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/snack, 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 selections, in the correct size, colour, etc. are waiting for you. Sounds like more attractive doesn't it?
Stores must develop for the online generation who desire experiences. A relaxed cafe type atmosphere could be something novel plus people will always pick up extra items when in-store. It could also be a great way to communicate the brands' ethos via design, service, ambiance while giving genuine selection options - this is Apple's brilliantly simple secret
Big brands are already closing unprofitable stores in smaller towns, cities are not as affected as they have a continuous flow of customers. A benefit of corporates leaving smaller towns is it frees the way for local traders to thrive once again. Most people like the idea of supporting local shops rather than a chain, it feels genuine because we're actually connecting to a sincere person who cares about their products
Perhaps its time to re-imagine what our town center provides. A solution to long-term property agreements could be resolved by dividing buildings into smaller spaces for local companies and artistic experiences. There's not much to do in town centers, the current message is; you are only here for one thing...consumerism.
Town planners must take responsibility to engage people - only retail shops obviously no longer serves the community. People want experiences. Art and culture should be considered as essentials. People aspire to improve to discover new things. Gyms in towns prove this case. How about giving artists opportunities to create happenings or events - it would attract people while showing there is more to town life than only shopping!
Local artists and retailers would be happy to be in prominent 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 the buildings could consider a low rental income. Something like this would really support and invigorate a community
Without a doubt, we have to reconsider cheap overseas goods, not only because of terrible conditions, etc but the low-quality materials, so we end up getting poorer products with shorter lifespans. This is causing an enormous amount of refuse, which is being sent to landfill sites in third world countries. A crazy situation whereby we're dumping our garbage onto the poorest nations, who happen to be the same people making that garbage!
The goal of all corporations is growth and profit, while this is not a bad thing, it's not sustainable long-term on a local level. A significant advantage of restricting corporate chains would be for us. Our surroundings have a profound effect on our lives. Its time to regenerate, but with diversity. Towns of the future should be places where communities, traders, and artists can 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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