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Retail can be very puzzling


Nothing could be truer in today’s ever-challenging consumer healthcare market than the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.”


I often use the analogy of puzzle-making when I moderate strategy sessions with clients. Why? Because it provides a framework from which to fuel the conversation and the ideation that moves an organization or a brand forward. Think about it this way; if you were putting together a puzzle in the most efficient manner, I suspect you would first look at the cover of the box and get an idea of what outcome is expected. So why not strategize in the same manner?


If you are a retailer, imagine this scenario. Begin your “puzzle-making” by describing what the desired outcome looks like. Then ensure that the edges (foundation) are solidly in place before trying to fill in the center. That’s why I believe retail is puzzling – requiring that all interconnected pieces are perfectly placed.


As a supplier or trusted business partner, align your resources with each retailer’s vision (their finished puzzle). Bear in mind that each retail entity will likely have a different puzzle that they are endeavoring to build. If you’re not sure where they are going, ask. If you don’t take time to understand their direction then I suspect you will end up someplace else.


It is my belief that new business growth will demand that companies try new, out-of-the-box approaches. Expecting different business outcomes while doing the same thing is impossible – and impractical. Millennials, representing the leading buying power of tomorrow’s economy, certainly shop differently than their parents, use technology as both an enabler and a communication tool, network with strangers and recommend choices to their friends much more openly than the previous generation, and they have little tolerance for retail environments that do not satisfy their desires…on all fronts (assortment, convenience, culture, community, personalization, technology, and more). Why then do we insist on managing retail operations just like we did for their parents?


Marco Rubio, during his presidential bid announcement on April 13 suggested that “Yesterday is over. We Americans are proud of our history, but our country has always been about the future.” This is equally applicable to today’s retail business climate. I firmly believe that companies do not have to abandon their past but they must be willing to forge into new uncharted waters if they expect to remain relevant in tomorrow’s market.


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