In the UK, two well established high street retailers recently filed for bankruptcy in the space of two days. British Home Stores was set up in 1928 by a group of American entrepreneurs who wanted to emulate the successful Woolworths model. Today the chain has 11,000 employees. Austin Reed was founded in 1900 and supplied menswear to, amongst others, Winston Churchill. The products are upmarket and the chain has over 70 retail outlets, with a large flagship store located on Regent Street, London.
Both have now acknowledged that they are in serious financial trouble and a large number of people are now facing the prospect of losing their jobs.
We wouldn’t pretend to understand the ins-and-outs of the retail world that BHS and Austin Reed inhabit. But what seems to be universally accepted is that the reason both of these high street stalwarts have faltered is that they failed to adapt to changing circumstances, which has massively negatively impacted on sales. The challenges that both retailers face are not insignificant; rising rents, changes in fashion (particularly for Austin Reed), online retailers (especially damaging for BHS) and so on have combined to squeeze them to the point of breaking.
Change is something that marketers increasingly face in the running, cycling, triathlon and outdoors sectors. Fashions change incredibly quickly – whether that is how people want to dress or what sports they want to do. Technology develops and can make an existing set of products obsolete almost overnight. The media that consumers use shifts with incredible speed.
The only truth is that the process of change and the speed of change will continue to increase. For marketers that represents both an opportunity and a threat (isn’t it funny how those two things are so often the two sides of the same coin) and those that continue to thrive will be the ones able to spot the changes before they happen and adapt according. Are you already doing that?