retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

A funny thing happened on the way to last week’s column. I thought I had written a really nice article about intangibles and the skills we wish could be measured, but can’t. And after using an example of a professional basketball player, I offered up examples of the same in this industry.

Then something happened. is an entirely virtual adventure. Kevin does his remarkable work by high-speed connections wherever he is. And my columns arrive the same way, usually without us ever being within 200 miles of each other. It usually works.

Last week, it didn’t. The column I sent and that I hope you read, was only two-thirds the length of what I intended. Nearly 200 of my pearls of wisdom (writers treat words like our children—we love them all) disappeared.

Not surprisingly, I got e-mails from some readers. And almost all were favorable, praising the point of the article. Not one questioned why it was so short or seemed concerned that my point wasn’t fully made.

Which brings s back to the headline of this week’s article: Is Less Really More?

Is it possible the extra 200 words really didn’t make a difference and that the point was made and properly ended. (Is it also possible that my MacBook has developed artificial intelligence and edited the column for me?)

It’s an interesting parallel for a problem we have long had in this industry - providing endless variety in product after product. It’s a point well challenged by Barry Schwartz in his book “The Paradox of Choice,” in which he argues that too many choices makes the shopper less satisfied.

In so many ways it seems like a counterintuitive argument. But if the current economic situation shows us anything it is that the status quo must be challenged. Standing as we are in the middle of this storm, we cannot say with any certainty what formula will actually lead to success. We don’t know which format or collection of format will succeed. We don’t know which approach to customer value will succeed. We’re in uncharted waters and we have to swim like never before.

But the lesson seems simple. Now more than ever we need to ask difficult questions and challenge the status quo. We need to find opportunity where maybe none existed before. And we need to be counterintuitive and be willing to walk toward the future in bold and new ways.

That might well include a new look at variety and at understanding how too much choice can lead to less satisfaction and how offering the proper choice might well provide the key to even greater success.

Perhaps we can even talk about it with shorter columns.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .
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