A new retail “golden age”? Not yet…

There is no doubt that the recession (and years of retail consolidation preceding it) have thinned the ranks of weak retailers, leaving fewer but financially stronger survivors. And there is also clear evidence that the remaining retailers are focused on new strategies to appeal to consumers, such as social networking tools and the development of exclusive brands.
Innovations like this are healthy for the retail industry, but do they point to a “golden age”? And how, exactly, do we define the “golden age”? I would describe it as a consistent, well-executed merchandise offering — priced appropriately for the store’s target customer — with service and ambiance appropriate to the store brand.

At this point the “golden age” still looks like it’s beyond the horizon; in fact, e-commerce may be closer to the goal than most brick-and-mortar retailers. Long-term aspirations to greatness may require less short-term focus on costs and margins.

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