Watching movements and changes in the business world is equivalent to watching a barometer of social norms, wants and attitudes. It's a litmus test for what we are doing and what we want. A few weeks ago we had a Melbourne fashion designer complaining (on the front pages) about how bad retail trade is. In the past week the news came out that Holden was not in the top 3 selling brands of car in Australia any more. Retail bookshops have been pretty much closed up shop in the last few years (except for clearance outlets). Iconic brands have disappeared. It would be easy to think that business is on the downward slide. Is it really THAT bad?
Strangely, at the same time, people queue overnight to buy new releases of technology products. When Zara opened in Melbourne, there was a security guard limiting the number of people entering, to keep the crowds under control. Some inner-city restaurants are so difficult to get into that you need to strategise days ahead just for a chance to even get to the bar (or wait around for 3-4 hours.. hoping). Online sales are going through the roof. People are still spending, but what we buy and how we buy it is changing. It always has and always will.
Small businesses rarely speak about their offer when they speak about their business. The assumption is that what they are selling is very appealing and the lack of sales is due to other issues like marketing. I have seen this many times, including a cafe that sold poor coffee with uninspiring service and bland food. No amount of marketing would help them.
The world of business is one of survival of the fittest, of economic Natural Selection. There are countless small businesses that don't have a compelling offer, don't sell things that people want, or in ways that suit their potential customers. Maybe they did once, but the market has changed. Just because someone decided to start a business does not mean it has an entitlement to succeed. Neither is there any entitlement of ongoing success for a business that has been successful, had products that people used to love or sold in a way that people used to favour. Maybe Holden cars don't excite people any more.
Is your product or service one that people have to have? Will they queue up for it? Will they talk about it? Will they check in and take photos? Will they share with their friends? Is it easy to do business with you?
Will it be next year?
Dr. Warren Harmer
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