“Retail apocalypse” has become a ubiquitous term when we talk about the drastic changes happening on the high street. The latest reports about Barneys New York financial troubles and the struggles at House of Fraser and Debenhams just reinforce the idea that department stores are a thing of the past.
But when we take a closer look, it’s easy to see that shifts in consumer behaviour are not the only cause, after all other retailers, like Selfridges and Harrods, are doing pretty well. Which these troubled brands have in common is a loss of their identity. Barneys used to be a risk- taker and master of spotting new designers before they would become mainstream. Now, they just try to catch up by playing it safe. House of Fraser and Debenhams gave up on strategies to engage with consumers, opting for a never ending discount approach in a dull store environment that fails to attract anyone looking for a good shopping experience.
The forecast is bleak and without radical changes, there’s no hope in the near future. However, if they really want to turn things around, it’s time to look inside and reclaim a clear identity with a focused message. Instead of trying to be another sheep in the flock, find a niche in the market and aim to be the best at it. Yes, it’s hard to regain power when it is lost, but not impossible if the ultimate goal is to offer something meaningful to your customer. That’s how you start to turn things around.