retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post had a piece saying that "in the age of Amazon, stores are trying to reinvent themselves, generally using one of two strategies: deliver products more quickly and nearly as cheaply as online sellers, or offer shopping experiences that entice people to visit their establishment and buy something." In other words, retailers need to find a differential advantage that take them beyond the things that Amazon does best, as opposed to falling into the traps that felled retail giants such as Borders, Blockbuster and Circuit City.

Three examples:

• Pirch, "a California kitchen and bath company" that offers the "opportunity to build and customize one’s own product. Pirch offers fully functioning showrooms where shoppers can choose and arrange pieces for their own kitchens and bathrooms, just as their kids might choose clothes for a teddy bear." Not only does Pirch have dozens of faucets from which to choose, but they're all functional - which changes the experience.

• "Like cupcakes, the arrival of blow-dry bars might have felt like a fad," but there is a sense that they are "becoming a permanent niche service akin to manicures, pedicures or a visit to the spa."

• "D.C. and some of its wealthier suburbs are being flooded by new theater concepts, almost all of them offering restaurants and bars to enjoy on your way in and reserved seating; cushy, reclining chairs and a more selective group of films from which to choose … With tickets ranging as high as $25, it is a more expensive experience than popcorn and a movie at the mall," but affluent and educated audiences are choosing them because they offer an option to both the home entertainment experience and the more traditional movie theater (many of which are upscaling their offerings as well as a way of making going out to the movies a more appealing option).
KC's View:
It seems to me that at some level, these are the kinds of questions that more companies have to pose to themselves. Sure, they have to be competitive with the likes of Amazon, but they also have to define, develop and exploit the things that make them special It has to be a continuing and organic process, in which companies need to find ways to offer new and distinct products and services.

Companies that do not engage in this process have no right to expect that they can survive.