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Changing retail landscape - the quick and the dead

Has Australian retailing changed forever or is it forever changing? COLEBY NICHOLSON says we’re at the beginning of a radical change to the way we do everything, which includes shopping for jewellery.
You know about Facebook, but have you heard of Pinterest? You probably know about Google+ but what do you know about Tumblr? Ever seen Plukka? No? 

Then you’ve seen the success of e-commerce right, but do you think f-commerce will ever take off?

I’ll come back to these questions, but first let me tell you a story. It was at another time in history where the way people interacted with each other was about to forever change, the only thing was I didn’t realise it yet. 

It was around 1992 and my business partner, Mike, had come back from a trip all excited. We published a number of magazines including two computer titles; MacNews and Desktop.

Mike was the editor and he often got very excited about new ‘gizmos’. He plonked a software box on my desk and said, “Take a look at this.” I looked the box over and said, “What is it?”

“Quickmail,” he replied. “Yeah, I can see that,” I retorted, “It says that on the box. But what does it do?”

“It’s a new email program,” he explained. I must have looked confused so he explained that it was an inter-office email system and we could install it on the office server and email each other. 

I still remember my next question. It was one of those questions that, in hindsight, was not at all prophetic: “Why do we need to email someone in the office? Can’t we just talk to them?”

Back then our small company was one of the most advanced publishing houses in Australia, in part because we were inundated with requests to test new software and hardware. So Quickmail was installed and within two weeks it had revolutionised our company.

While ‘email’ already existed at that point in time, it was generally confined to the academic world, along with the internet, as crude as it was in the late 80s and early 90s. The point is that the way we communicated changed overnight and our company became even more efficient than we already were, thanks to office email.

Along with becoming more efficient it also positioned us well as by the time the ability to send external emails quickly came around our company was well ahead of the pack. If I recall, soon after we were given this new ‘thing’ called Photoshop 1.0 and boy, did we have some fun with that!

The world had changed. Business had evolved. Everything had shifted but not everyone saw the movement, they stood still. From the day Mike handed me that Quickmail software box, I vowed never again to question major economic and social change; although sometimes skeptical, I embraced it.

So that brings me back to my opening questions. The way business is being done, the way consumers act, the way people learn and the way we communicate are all changing, fast! 

Much of it comes from our different needs but some of it is because we don’t know how useful the change can be until we have experienced it, just like my first interaction with Quickmail.

What, when and how we buy has also been affected, but perhaps most importantly where we buy! And all that’s either great news or bad news for retailers depending on whether you move with the times or stand still.

I won’t pretend to have all the answers. I won’t even pretend to understand everything that is happening. However, what I do know is that we are at the beginning of a radical change to the way we do everything, and that includes shopping for jewellery.

In addition, Australia is experiencing the affects of a confluence of many atypical events (global financial crisis, two speed economy, increased personal savings, high Aussie dollar) all of which demand a rethink of everything. Move or stand still.

But, above all, the most important thing is our access to knowledge, and while that is a fundamental thing that has not changed for centuries, our capacity to access it has. For example, if, after having read this, you are still none the wiser about Pinterest, Plukka, f-commerce, or how they might benefit you, simply ask Mr Google.

He’s quick, even faster than Quickmail all those years ago!

Duraflex Group Australia

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