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Bloomberg has a story about how the UK "offers a case study in the troubles facing retail worldwide, and the collapse this week of the U.K. arm of baby-products chain Mothercare Plc is just the latest example. With fast-growing online rivals like Boohoo Group Plc and Inc. drawing shoppers, traditional chains were already struggling before a weaker pound began squeezing living standards and crimping sales further."

Among the examples cited by Bloomberg

• Next, a clothing chain, which not only has embraced e-commerce but also incremental measures "such as opening combined clothing and home stores, and selling third-party brands like Levi’s and Gucci. This year Next installed Amazon lockers in hundreds of locations for customers to pick up deliveries, hoping they’ll browse while inside. Next has a 15-year plan to reduce rents and stores gradually to drive profit, rather than resorting to the drastic measures that have forced other chains to fire thousands."

CEO Simon Wolfson explains his strategy this way: "The thing about retail is, it isn’t a business where you need to take big decisions. You take small decisions, try things and then maximize the opportunities they present.”

• Primark, a discount clothing chain that doesn't have an e-commerce presence (its prices are too low to justify online sales, it says) but continues to grow sales and open new stores. "A main advantage is knowing the customer well," Bloomberg writes. "Store managers select products on their computers each morning and determine how much they need for the next day. It’s the same model that Inditex SA’s Zara chain follows and allows for a nimbler response to trends."

Finance Director Finance Director John Bason puts it this way: "We encourage customer intimacy. Having an eye for the hottest trends is vital in the buying department, and that is encouraged."

• Greggs: "Since opening its first shop in 1951, Greggs Plc has stayed true to its mission: to make cheap pastries," Bloomberg writes. "It’s been growing steadily, but business boomed this year after the bakery chain launched a vegan sausage roll that became a hit on social media. First-half sales rose almost 15%, and Greggs shares have climbed 41% in 2019.

"Like online-delivery services, Greggs is benefiting from changing eating habits as time-pressed Britons cook less and grab food on the go. Greggs has been transforming itself for the last six years into a takeout business focused on airports, train stations and business areas after previously relying on the high street -- the British term for the main shopping district. It’s also partnered with Just Eat Plc and Deliveroo, and extended a 'click & collect' pilot to seven U.K. cities."
KC's View:
On the face of it, this doesn't seem all that difficult. Make lots of small moves, expand on the ones that work, and keep innovating, innovating, innovating. Know your customers really, really well, and build an organization that is responsive to their needs and wants. And go where the customers are.

Except that it is difficult, of course. These values have to be built into an organization's DNA, have to be more than just a slogan, and have to be the result of leaders being willing to reject complacency at every turn.

By the way, "retail apocalypse" is their word, not mine. I like "retail revolution." Retail isn't going anywhere … but it is changing in fundamental ways.