• John Lim

MF 308 : The changing state of retail

Today, I take a few minutes to talk about the changing state of retail and why taking your business online is essential for survival in this new normal. More at www.bemovingforward.com.

Moving Forward is also available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Spotify.

Retail’s seismic shock

JC Penney’s, Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, Men’s Warehouse, and J. Crew. These are just some of the most familiar and iconic clothing brands that many of us grew up with or shopped from. As of today, they have all filed for bankruptcy.

These mainstays have been part of our consumer and cultural ethos for decades, and in the case of Brooks Brothers, for over a century.

Just google retail news and you’ll see the latest headlines of a major brand that has either filed for chapter 11, chapter 13 or shuttered its doors completely.

Although it’s easy to point to 2020 and the recent pandemic as the culprit, the downward trend in brick and mortar retail has been ongoing for several years.

If you follow the podcast, you’ll know that I work for my dad part-time and for the past several years, I’ve been working on taking his business online. However, this conversation didn’t start this year. It began in 2015-16 when we recognized early on that the “800-pound gorilla” was Amazon, which drastically changed and shaped consumer retail habits.

Over the course of several years, we tried everything from Amazon FBA to eBay to Shopify with varying degrees of success (or not) until I discovered Poshmark in spring 2018. You can listen to that story in the Poshmark mini-series that I recorded last year.

It’s worse: what the headlines overlook

While the news is bleak for major name brands and gigantic retailers, the sadder story is being overlooked. Small businesses, local “mom and pop” stores are not counted in the retail closure stats. Many aren’t filing for bankruptcy, which is a technical business and legal process. Rather, they are closing their doors permanently without so much as a byline or stat in the business journals.

Online: no longer a luxury or “nice to have” but a necessity

The pandemic has exacerbated, and in many cases, hastened the demise of retail. While big retailers like Walmart and Target are surviving and thriving, making shifts to contactless payments, online deliveries, and more, smaller stores and businesses often find it difficult to make that leap.

In 2018-19, taking my dad’s business online was a tactical decision to keep him relevant, competitive, and to expand his customer base nationwide. Little did we know that we were also planning for 2020.

I believe the pandemic has revealed a trend that has been occurring for several years now. Consumer habits were already moving towards increased online shopping for food, basics and clothing. 2020 simply hastened the death of many retailers, big and small.

I also believe that whenever we reach “normal” again, many of the changes we are seeing will be permanent. The pandemic has impacted not only how we shop but what we shop for. Take business attire. What you wore to the office is likely very different than what you’re wearing doing the same job at home.

Brick and mortar businesses can no longer afford to do business as usual. Going online, integrating ecommerce and CRM tools is now a matter of survival.

Learn more on the Poshmark miniseries


The Poshmark mini-series roadmap

What I’m reading / read

  1. If I Understood You, Would I have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda (***)

Books by John

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Audiobook narrated by John

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© 2021 by John LIm and Bemovingforward.com. 

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