The Long & Winding Road: Downloading Bricks

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Again this week, I had two conversations which are related but not obviously related. If you are one of those people that focuses on the end product rather than the process you might not see the connection I saw. Whether the connection I saw has any bearing on the state of the world remains to be seen but here goes! 

In the UK this week there has been heavy news coverage of three ‘high street’ businesses going out of business, all three being deemed to be ‘victims of e-commerce’. All the businesses were involved in entertainment and technology to some degree, the crucial aspect of their business was that their particular businesses were born before the digital age. The selling of music cds, films via video tapes and cameras which use film has changed beyond recognition in recent years. Sadly for these companies they had not changed with the times quickly enough and the market-share they enjoyed in the 1990s and 2000s dwindled to unsustainable numbers. 

Is this the ‘fault’ of e-commerce? I say not… the phrase ‘change or die’ comes to mind. 

The second conversation I had was while watching my son at his football (soccer) training. I was reminiscing with another parent about the sporting environments we grew up in and the level of commercialisation the current children are subject to. In our day, boots (cleats) were black, perhaps with some striping on them whereas today they are every colour under the rainbow and rarely black. When I was child I had very limited athletic clothing to wear, today my children have thermal under garments designed to ‘wick’ moisture away from the body, lightweight high tech over garments etc etc…you get the picture. One thing did arise when we chatted was the re-emergence of some of the sporting brands from the 80s/90s which had gone out of favour. The ‘retro’ look is fashionable, incredibly I am cool again! 

Just shows you that if you keep things long enough they come back into fashion! This retro cool return of brands like ‘Gola’ ‘Sergio Tachinni’ ‘La Coste’ and more is solely due to the existence of e-commerce. 

So as one type of business fades away another emerges….. our technological world mirrors nature far more readily than we care to think about. When you have bricks and mortar as the bedrock of your business you will find them very hard to download; when you have a virtual store crammed with products and customer reviews connected to a distant manufacturing fulfillment centre, you have infinite possibilities. 

E-commerce has allowed ‘lean’ production techniques to improve, it has removed the burden of businesses carrying costly stock and importantly it has allowed the customer to access what they want when they want it.

So what needs to be done? Well two things certainly; firstly don’t assume that viable businesses from yesteryear are dead and buried…with a makeover there may well be an e-commerce persona which works and secondly, if you are not investing in bricks and mortar make sure you do invest in the people who work for you, it is they who will win you the market share you seek and it is they who are your new ‘bricks in the wall’. Victims of e-commerce? Only if you choose to be! 

see you on the long and winding road………. Patrick 

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