It ain’t half crap Mum….*

Empire pie was a product launched by Marks & Spencer’s, a couple of years ago. Much lambasted at the time not for its taste but its imperialist sounding title. It seems to have seen that one through. Both Julia have since had experience of this beast and seek to lambast it because of its taste or rather lack of it. Driving back home late one night on our venerable motorway system , we bought one (two actually, as they are singles) knowing there would be nothing in the fridge when we got home . What we did not know was that there was nothing in the pies either (in terms of taste rather than filling).

We had long been a follower of Marks & Spencer’s food , since they first developed the concept . Then it was innovative, tasty and a place to seek out when looking for something a little different to eat . But, in our opinion, no longer. Whilst Food still shows growth for the nation’s ‘favourite(?)’ multiple it is being chased rapidly by its competitors.

Their food offering has become just another player, whereby the competition has caught and in many cases overtaken them . There is no research (that I know of) it is subjective opinion. Yet I think their financial performance sort of supports the comment that products like empire pie are symptomatic of many of today’s multiples. They are just not trying hard enough. If you are going to succeed in the market place you have to be ahead of the game not catching up. I think M&S have lost their Mojo.

The recent tie up with Ocado, is not radical, it’s just catching up or at least trying to. It’s catch up, which in today’s climate is just not good enough. It’s probably good for Ocado(not that convinced about that either) but I can’t see it being that great for Marks. It’s well and good having super efficient fulfilment centre but you still ‘gotta’ have the product.

That’s enough of having a dig at M&S. The point is these very same issues exist in many of the U.K’s multiples. They will have to reinvent the wheel or rather the way they retail. It will not be an exercise for the faint hearted, but regrettably the faint hearted have, by definition, faint hearts and eventually pass away. I believe the tools are there to make change and most of them(but not all) are technologically driven . But Innovation implies creating your own tools.

So let me paint a picture. You are a CEO just appointed to a major national retailer, in order to ensure the company’s future. You are about to present to the Board your findings and recommendations….

Hi Guys and Gals(not a good start as there are probably no gals, but guys are ok as I am sure the boards of many Nationals are full of ‘hipster types’) these are my two possibilities to ensure the continued existence and of course ‘growth’ of this amazing organisation

1. We introduce currently available technology , which will enable the consumer to take a pic of the terrific jacket they have seen somebody wearing on the bus to work. The app will identify the brand, equivalent alternatives , plus ad ons then tell the consumer where to buy it. Of course there will web sites offered but it will also show stores where these items can be purchased. It will then tell the consumer how to get to the stores from where they get off the bus. As the consumer enters the store, which will know that the consumer is coming and what they are looking for and can then suggest other similar items in the store………….

2. We develop some new fairly bland tasting pies with slightly contentious names…..

Chairman’s(probably not a hipster)response…

Pies…it’s what we know best….

Perhaps a slight exaggeration but I think it’s a reasonably accurate illustration. And yes, this technology does exists. And I am not talking advanced pie making.

Time is running out for many of the more established national retailers. Part of their problem is their size . To make radical transformations will cost a huge wad of cash. For the newer innovative retail entrepreneurs, it is part of their organic growth. For those who think that new embryonic retailers will never threaten nationals, think on. Amazon started from scratch less than twenty five years ago. So those seeking a more immediate and less drastic fix, as you are not selling as much you would like, try looking at what you sell . Sell stuff people want, not what you think they want. If you don’t others will and are…..

* for those who don’t quite get the title, and think it is just the ramblings of an old fart. You are right. But if you are inquisitive, replace the word ‘mum’ with ‘hot’ and google…

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