Resistance (to Change) is Futile
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Here's a meme that seems to be consistently constant (and redundant!) of late: Adaptation to change is a necessary and critical component to survival.
In business. In life. In love. In baseball (Hey, I may live in Texas, but I'm extremely saddened by the Yankees lost to the Tigers in the AL playoffs this weekend...As for football, I'm not even gonna go there re: the Eagles and the Cowboys, except to say a sportsman-like congratulations to the city formerly known as the home of T.O.)
But mostly, change is a constant in business. And business seems to be where the adaptation to change -- or lack thereof -- seems to have some of the most significant impact.
What started this resurgent epiphany? C'mon, Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma" is the textbook textbook on the need to create self-imposed business disruption. But one need only read the headlines on any given day to see what havoc the lack of an effective strategy to address that disruption head on (applied directly to the forehead) can foment.
This article from the Sacramento Bee (registration required) provides a good case in point. In it, the Bee explains that Tower Records was, at its inception, an innovator when it opened its first retail store in 1960 in Sacramento, before spreading and expanding around the globe during the ensuing decades.
Until that time, music had been "consigned to the nether reaches of department stores." Putting records in their own store was a novel idea, and soon Tower records became a great place to hang out as well as buy music (I used to frequent the Tower Records on Lower Broadway while attending NYU in the mid-80s).
But despite jumping on the Internet bandwagon in 1995, Tower was no match for the scale, distribution, reach, and efficiencies of the Amazons and Wal-Marts of the world. Its rapid retail expansion could not compete with mass volume discounts and the Internet's long tail inventory, which offered a gazillion more choices than a physical retail store ever could.
After a solid run at the top of the retail music distribution charts, Tower just couldn't get any more airplay and was forced to file for bankruptcy late this past summer.
In other words, in the 1940s, specialty retail was the new new thing.
In the early 21st Century, it encountered significant competition from new players and new strategies, and required significant adaptation to keep the hits a comin'.
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If you'd like to learn more about how IBM is helping shopkeepers keep their stores out of retailing history's remainder bin, check out this podcast featuring executives from Woolworth's UK and JC Penney as well as NBC's "the SuperMarket Guru," Phil Lempert.