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Do I need to get techy to start a retail business?

Thursday, 6 February 2014 | By Franz Madlener

I’m starting a new retail business and I’m not very techy. Can I survive without having to adapt to all this modern day hoo-ha?


Once in a generation, retail goes through a change that could never have been predicted – and cannot be ignored. Here are a few examples of such change:


In 1984, we rushed into the shops on Saturday morning knowing that if we didn’t buy what we needed by 12pm, we wouldn’t be able to shop again until Monday morning…


Very few of us would have believed Sunday would become the second biggest trading day of the year for most retailers just 30 years later.

In 1954, supermarkets as we know them today didn’t exist, with 90 cents of every dollar spent at a small, independently owned business...


Very few of us would have believed that just 60 years later, they would take 80 cents in every dollar spent on consumable goods.

In 1904, horse feed, rum, coffee, coal and clothing was all purchased at the same store, usually on an account or “appro” (on approval)...


Very few of us would have believed that up to 80% of purchases would be spent on a plastic debit or credit card just one generation later – some of it by just touching the card against a pole.


In 2014, any retailer that says online shopping, e-tailing, retail-apps, or social networking is just a trend they can do without may well be reminded of the above.


Today’s generation research product and price on the web, read online forums for tips where to shop, use mobile apps to find a coffee or clothing (and maybe even horse feed), pre-pay with PayPal, and use their phone to store their ‘frequent coffee’ credits.


Facebook is The Argus of today (look it up kids), Instagram is the Christmas catalogue that was once stuffed in the mailbox, Twitter is today’s radio advert telling you that 20% off all stock starts in 15 minutes, and blogging has just about replaced ‘word-of-mouth’ as the best way to give and get feedback on good service or a yummy muffin!


So before you think we are in the middle of a short-lived trend, think again about the once-in-a-generation paradigm shift that is really going on – with or without us!


My suggestion: bring your kids, nieces, nephews, friends and staff around for a BBQ, and pick their brains as to how to adapt, sustain, evolve and grow your business by being a part of the new world that has emerged.


To answer your specific question: Can you survive? Of course, you can ‘survive’ – the way a weed manages to survive in the cracks of the footpath for far too long. But you won’t thrive in the way the manicured and well-fed garden bed thrives growing right next to the same footpath!