Zach Ware

Tables with stuff

Every Valentine’s Day there are random people in front of a gas station selling last minute gifts.

Last weekend it was a couple with a table in the parking lot of a 7-11 with piles of Valentine’s baskets and big stuff bears wrapped in heart tape and such.

The killer app in the retail world of past decades was a box with stuff in in it. Like the Barnes and Noble I visited today.

Their core competencies were compiling large quantities of stuff, leasing tons of real estate and putting the stuff on shelves. The building was convenient to a lot of people so they went there to get the stuff. That was the simplest way to get things.

That’s what most retailers still are, especially the large ones. Real estate companies that buy stuff, put it on shelves and take your money.

To earn business today retailers have to do more than be close to their customers. The value of the proximity of the box is minimal. The only value the boxes provided before was proximity in a pinch. That’s their last remaining value. The couple selling Valentine’s gifts in front of 7-11 are hot on their trails.

We’re in the first inning of the one hour delivery game. It’s messy. But there is no doubt same day deliveries will replace the last valuable feature of big box retail in the next ten years.

If fast and close are no longer valuable to consumers, what do retailers do to earn customers’ business? More importantly which ones will realize this and change course before it’s too late?

First published on February 20, 2016