Walmart ate Kmart’s lunch, and Sears was the world’s #1 retailer when I first entered the toy industry. Today they too are eating Walmart's dust. Not too many years ago one could not envision that this retailing behemoth might face a worthy competitor, so dominant they became. But steadily, stealthily, through relentless investment in new technologies, new facilities, and constant innovation here is Amazon becoming just that worthy challenger, and the domination of Walmart is no longer assured.
Similarly, Microsoft dominated computer operating software for decades, leaving just crumbs on the floor for others, but suddenly the world of the desktop computer is no longer to be as it was before. A plethora of mobile devices, phones, tablets, and others has opened up opportunities and needs for new operating systems, and the future of this once invincible, world-dominating enterprise does not look assured.
The advantage real stores have is instant gratification. It is no small advantage, I think, to have zero delay between placing an order and having the product in one's possession. Brick and mortar stores like Best Buy are utilizing that unique aspect of the in-store experience that Amazon cannot quite duplicate.
In addition, stores are using showrooming to their advantage, matching prices that consumers can find online, but giving the consumer their ‘instant gratification’ of product in hand. HA! Take that, Amazon.
This is a battle raging for the hearts, minds, and dollars of the consumer, pitting price against the instant gratification of walking out of the store with your product in hand. Meanwhile, raging innovation is going on behind the scenes to allow retailers to deliver product to you ever faster, and ever cheaper.
If you read trade journals such as Logistics Management at bedtime, as I do you, will learn that behind the scenes there is a tremendous amount of innovation going on in warehouses and distribution centers.
When you consider the world of warehousing and order fulfillment you realize the challenge of seeking out the many disparate products in one order from their various far-flung warehouse inventory locations and gathering them together to package for delivery. The field is evolving rapidly. There are new ways of stacking and palletizing, new types of forklifts, robotic conveyors, free moving robotic pickers, etc, etc, all of which enable orders to be processed and shipped more quickly.
The goal of Amazon and others is now same day delivery.
When Amazon bought a robotics company some years ago others paid little attention, but it is technologies such as these that enable Amazon to be ever faster and cheaper in the delivery of customers' orders. They are building distribution systems around major population centers to allow same day delivery. Coming to you soon.
Change is afoot, as always, of course. I am fascinated by the changes taking place at retail - the interface between customer and the store, between the online and real world, ‘brick and mortar’ retail spaces. Best Buy and others are being forced to evolve, and quickly, primarily by the growth of Amazon.com and the enabling of in-store price checking. Best Buy often acts as a mere showroom for electronics via smart-phones.
As one of the urban Amish, being a member of the older generation that doesn’t crave an iPhone, iPad, or iWhatever, I don't use my old-fashioned Blackberry to ‘showroom’ when shopping. It is unlikely that I will anytime this decade, late adopter that I am.
Instead, I watch it all from afar, bemused and also fascinated to see retailing in the throes of great change, and curious to see where it will all lead, and whom will benefit.
My friend, Dr. Stevanne Auerbach aka Dr. Toy, has already posted a review of my new book on Amazon from which the following is a redacted excerpt:
“The book is a beacon of light for not only toy inventors who will enjoy learning some valued secrets to success, but for anyone who is fortunate enough to discover a book loaded with wisdom. Any reader will come to better understand not only the mind of a . . . generous inventor, who has continuously contributed fun and joyful playthings to children, but will find the content valuable guidance for enriching their lives. Bravo to Bruce Lund for his many inventions and for Bruce’s Beliefs, and for sharing everything with all of us lucky enough to know . . . you. Can’t wait to play with his next invention.”
I was reading some opinions recently on the expanded toy retailing by Amazon.com. Some of those commenting on the article had interesting points to make that I had not considered before.
1. Buying local keeps the money in your community, employing your neighbors, keeping local businesses healthy that contribute in many ways to the neighborhoods and communities they are a part of.
2. Local stores utilize local resources, including attorneys, book keepers, accountants, cleaning staff, and repairmen, in addition to their sales force.
3. Local retailers may pay local sales tax, and they certainly pay state sales tax and property taxes directly or as part of their rents, all of which benefits the community. Online retailers do none of these things, but instead they siphon off jobs, tax revenues, etc. and etc.
4. And isn't it great to have a neighborhood toy store? Isn't your community richer and more interesting for that?
I do love toy stores. Browsing them is a form of entertainment for all.