We are constantly bombarded by opinions on how to successfully run a retail business. These new ideas for the retail trade come, to a great extent, from assorted influencers – men and women in media, trade associations, recognized industry experts, analysts, and academia. Below is a list exemplifying each category of influencers. The list is long, and each group can have a positive effect on the industry (or an adverse effect if their comments are negative or critical).
1. Industry Associations. Every country and every state has a retail association. Matt Shay of the National Retail Federation leads an organization that influences the government on many vital issues that face the industry in the U.S. In turn, resulting policy often directs the overall industry.
2. Media. Every reporter who reports on retail news can slant his or her story to favor a point of view. David Moin of Women’s Wear Dai
3. Analysts. Many analysts shape opinions. Reports from Paula Rosenblum, managing partner and co-founder of Retail System Research, can have a profound impact on how prospective investors feel about a company, what new systems are adopted by the industry and how they will help companies be more innovative or productive.
4. Academia. We all can nominate our favorite professor in college. Scott Galloway is Clinical Professor of Marketing at NYU’s Stern School and founder of Section 4. His dynamic presentations, and the findings they contain, help companies as they strategize their futures.
5. Industry Experts. Richard Kestenbaum is a partner of Triangle Capital LLC. His insights from an investor’s point of view are helpful to many companies and often influence important strategic decisions. He competes with many who bask in the limelight of being called experts.
Do these experts influence a buying decision?
I believe the answer is yes; their comments impact decisions for investment purposes as well as personal merchandise choices. It is likely that, after attending some lectures or reading reports, investors may buy some stocks that they feel comfortable owning. They may have learned about the quality of management and its vision that will give the company future growth. Positive reviews will encourage them to look past recessions to participate in the strong recovery that management’s vision suggested. They will also benefit from encouraging words from the media that add to their knowledge and confidence about a retailer.
Merchandise also has its boosters. Experts can speak about innovation, the quality of a product or some special uses. Ten years ago, I heard from a friend about a new vacuum cleaner that cleaned the floor without assistance. (Rumba) I never bought the product, but followed its success and improvement over the years. It taught me that the product will be improved (wet/dry) and become a standard next to the handheld vacuum cleaners.
Academia is important for a few reasons; this community generates studies that influence company actions or consumer choices and also often awakens young people to be creative in their postgraduate years. Both The Wharton School and Harvard Business School have classes that encourage development of innovative product and business ideas. Here some new ideas will ferment and result in partnerships like one that Warby Parker, an eye-glass retailer, created at the Wharton School, or even launch a new concept like Rent the Runway, a clothing rental business, created at the Harvard School of Business.
POSTSCRIPT: Retailing is exciting. Every influential group discussed here contributes to the growth, or even the redirection, of the industry in some way. It takes years to understand the timing and ebb and flow of seasonal purchases. How can Dillard’s sell bathing suits in December? They do, since they know that some of their customers go on vacation or cruises. Influencers of all kinds shape the industry, help sell merchandise and spur innovations that redefine the future. They are a necessary asset.