By James Wells
WHISTLER, CANADA: In her keynote address to the Narta conference, managing director Kay Spencer told her members that it is important to embrace technology and the internet as part of their business strategy.
“Although interest rates, currency [and] government policy will play a key part in influencing consumer confidence and spend this year, changing technology will continue to drive demand.
“We are fortunate, our product has moved from being a luxury to a necessity, whilst still retaining its sense of prestige and fashion. We remain high on the consumers’ shopping list. In a tech-age, we are selling the tools of the trade, and the natural trend for people [to] retreat to their homes in difficult economic times will stimulate the renovation and home improvement market, as will the switch from analogue to digital TV.
“That said, retailers that understand their target markets and do not confuse the message are the clear winners in a more transparent world.
“Social networks like Facebook are opening up new target marketing opportunities. The reason some of our speakers have been selected [is] to provide more insights to these opportunities. Whichever way you look at it, the internet is now one of the most powerful influences in the retail landscape.
“It is becoming the shopping mall of choice for the under 35s and the information kiosk for everyone. Still the winners are those that are using multi-branding or stand-alone sites.
“The Narta office receives on average a call a week from internet companies, wanting to join – one with a turnover exceeding $30m which more than meets our turnover criteria.
“Other groups looking for scale could be tempted to add non bricks and mortar retailers into their stable. In general, traditional electrical retailers are not maximising this opportunity. Take a warning from other industries
“Where the internet has rendered the need for bricks and mortar nearly irrelevant – travel agents and photo processing are two such industries.
“But what the internet can’t provide and often what we are not doing well is the interaction in the last three feet. Despite the polished, professional image we all try and present it isn’t filtering consistently through to retail floor staff. This denigrates the shopping experience.”