The phrase 'don't waste a good crisis' is now as prevalent as 'retail apocalypse' was a year or two ago. The period of crisis management is largely over and retail leaders are now busy working out how to use the dislocation created by the crisis to accelerate their pre-existing transformation programmes and address sacred cows that previously had constrained the profitability of their businesses. The Retail Week article referenced here addresses the opportunity presented by technology in doing this. This is undoubtedly a key lever but there are others that are more immediate and accessible in the short term.
Addressing over-extended store estates, re-imagining the purpose of the store in the channel mix, accelerating digital capabilities, restructuring supply chains and taking a very hard look at head office costs are all other obvious levers. All these are key value drivers and, if addressed correctly, will undoubtedly drive sustainable profit moving forward.
However, possibly the single most important change the crisis has engendered relates to people's behaviour. This manifests itself in two ways - leadership decision-making and organisational change readiness. Leaders are now required to deal with high levels of ambiguity and work together to come up with 'best fit solutions' in incredibly short timeframes. Many have built scenario based models of their businesses that have provided incredible insight and support data based decision making. Planning is more important than plans and the ability to adjust in flight and execute at pace is paramount. Those that build this muscle and retain it during the recovery will prosper.
At the same time organisations have never been more ready for large scale change. The crisis has demonstrated how responsive and agile workforces can be when the chips are down. Seize the opportunity presented by this level of flexibility and make the radical changes required sooner rather than later, before old ways of working are re-established and resistance to change resumed.
Those that make the most of the crisis to transform their businesses to be leaner, stronger and more relevant to their customers will gain commercial advantage. Carpe diem!