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Blog

LIFE AT THE MARGIN

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It’s earnings season for many retailers who ended their fiscal years at the end of Jan. Results have been lackluster at best. Walmart, for instance, sold nearly $1,000,000,000,000 – that’s a trillion – in 2013. (Of that amount, only $30 billion – about three percent – was online. Amazon did about $75 billion.) Though biggest in the world, Walmart’s sales actually fell for the fourth quarter in a row in the US. Best Buy saw sales drop 3.5% for the year. JCPsales fell 7.4% after falling off a cliff (25%!) in 2012. Targetsaw sales slump 2.5% in 2013.
Are people buying less? Nope – there’s simply more competition than ever before. It’s a tough world out there.
Retailers may focus on margin but they also live on the edge. They don’t create demand; they fulfill demand. And they compete ferociously for every dollar. They win when shoppers come to them and become buyers, either online or in-person. They and the brand marketers from whom they buy strive to win shoppers’ attention and then their dollars. None of it is easy.
Though online options draw much attention these days, the in-store environment remains where the game is largely won or lost. Do it well there and win; do it poorly and lose. Stores are a high-stakes game.
As they scrap for every penny and percent, shoppers benefit from that intense competition. Great store interiors, inviting environments, knowledgeable staff, ample supplies of the right products – these are the factors that spell success. The right packaging, displays and fixtures are key parts of that equation. At the margin, it all matters.