Something has definitely changed in the world of retail. I’ve just read a 4th email from one of our wonderful stockists who has decided to close their doors.
In Australia, they’ve been telling us that we somehow managed to avoid the global financial crisis that took so many other countries down. Phew. Crisis averted….? I think not.
If you are a retailer or a merchant of any description, you would know how hard it is to run a business in the current financial climate, let alone profit from it. The GFC has sadly shredded so many wonderful small businesses all over the world. In Australia, it has hit us hardest this year, and I’ve seen countless shops, online stores, cafes and restaurants close over the past 12 months. One of our busiest Adelaide shopping strips, where there used to be a waiting list for shops to lease, now has eleven vacant shops, with no-one lined up to grab them. It seems that for us, the GFC has just begun.
So what is causing the demise of small business? Is it the fall of the banks and lenders, stock market crashes, bad governments, or is the cause more insidious than that?
Fifteen years ago, I was studying Social Science at university, and we were warned in a lecture one day that online shopping would take over shopping malls. Of course, we laughed, and I called out, “women will always want to go shopping!”. At that time, we were just beginning to use the internet to find references for our research, and I was still handwriting my assignments!
Fast forward fifteen years, and not only has online shopping become part and parcel of our shopping experience, but we actually compare our other shopping with what goes on online; comparing prices, researching what we want before we snap it up at the lowest possible price, and often holding bricks-and-mortar stores to ransom over a price we can pay for the item in an online store. And malls have even now taken their entire business online, so you can visit the mall without venturing out of your house!
Don’t get me wrong, I do it myself, but it’s just a very different world we’re living in, and the face of retail has changed so rapidly most of us can barely keep up.
Small business has been tested more in the past ten years that ever before; the rise of internet shopping, big business taking out small competitors all over the place, cheap imports from dodgy overseas suppliers, financial pressure on consumers, and more competition every day.
This is not an easy time to be in small business. But what has become glaringly obvious is that if you want to survive, you have to roll with the punches and change with the times. If you can whether this storm and be prepared to reinvent your business as often as your customers and competition demands, the sun will shine again.
As for the GFC, we won’t let it win.
What trials and triumphs has your business faced lately? How are you dealing with it?