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Editor's note: Business as Usual

Welcome to NACDS Total Store Expo. Now what?

As the mass retail industry meets again, this time in the Mile High City of Denver, it may be a great time to examine the state of our industry. Just where do we stand in relation to our traditional rivals as well as the new ones, which seem to be popping up all over the place? How is retail viewed by a more fickle and harried consumer base, made up increasingly of shoppers who not only demand more quality and diversity in product assortment, but they want it now and at the lowest price possible?

Some will say that traditional retail has seen its best days. The growing menace that is and its growing legion of imitators has certainly changed the retail landscape over the last decade. These disruptors have changed the entire business model for our industry, a standard that has worked extremely well for decades, if not a century or more.

Amazon found its niche by stressing two very important factors: a better price point for consumers looking to save a buck and the convenience of pressing a button or two and having your merchandise show up at your door — often within 24 or 48 hours and, dare we say, in some places in just a few hours.
Oh boy, do we have our work cut out for us.

So let’s get going. Mass retailers do not have to sit around and watch all they have worked for over the years come crumbling down. To the contrary, many have advantages that Amazon cannot match. For example, the in-store experience is still vital to many shoppers, and offering expertise in the aisles on everything from prescriptions to soft drinks will only make retailers more valuable to their shoppers.

Also, traditional retailers can compete with Amazon on its turf. As Walmart and Target have shown, building a well-developed and managed digital store can help keep some of those sales that previously went to Amazon. Now, the major drug chains are catching up on this front and, over time, this will neutralize Amazon’s edge.

Paying more attention to traditional merchandising and marketing will also help. NACDS TSE should show retailers that opportunities still abound for them as they compete against both new and old rivals.

It will take work. While not a needle in a haystack situation, retailers walking this show over the next two days need to decipher the vendors with legitimate game-changing products from the ones that are simply trying to cash in on an existing fad or trend.

Retail has always been in a constant state of flux. Today, it may be more challenging, and it is certainly not for the weak of heart. But, the best merchants will survive this challenge and emerge even stronger. It is just going to take a little more work this time and the need to always remember to think outside the box.

The next few days may be a great time to start thinking this way.
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