retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, once again coming to you from the classroom where I've spent some time this summer, enjoying my adjunctivity at Portland State University's Center for Retail Leadership.

While out here in the Pacific Northwest, I've had a chance to do some traveling. And go figure, while on the road I ran right into a retailing and business metaphor.

Readers of MNB know that I tend to climb on my soapbox when it comes to the actions by the French government to protect independent booksellers through legislation, rather than forcing them to actually compete with online retailers such as Amazon. And you know that when taxicab drivers decided to battle with Uber, the car sharing service, by protesting and blocking city streets rather than actually competing more effectively, I thought it was, to say the least, shortsighted.

But let's not delude ourselves that such reactions are in any way a reflection of modern sensibilities.

One of the places I went during my trip was a place called Whidbey Island, in Washington State, just north of Seattle. On Whidbey Island, there is a town called Coupeville … which was founded by a sea captain named Thomas Coupe. Well, as it happens, my grandfather's name was Thomas and my middle name is Thomas … though neither of us had anything to do with the founding of Coupeville. Still, it is fun to visit and learn a little history.

Whidbey Island is separated from the mainland by a treacherous waterway that is called Deception Pass, and during the early part of the 20th century, the only way to cross Deception Pass was on a dilapidated ferry called the Acorn, run by a woman named Berte Olson. The Acorn didn't offer great service … there was no regular schedule, the boat didn't run if the weather was lousy, and you pretty much couldn't depend on it. You were at the mercy of whatever Berte Olson's whims happened to be.

Still, when plans began to be drawn up that would build a bridge across Deception Pass, making it far easier for people to go back and forth, Berte Olson's first impulse was to - you guessed it! - lobby the governor to make sure the state would not fund the bridge and ruin her livelihood. And she was successful for a time, blocking inevitable and appropriate progress.

To me, that's precisely the wrong response. When competition looms, you have to get better … not look for ways to block the competition from doing business. It's delusional to think you can stop progress … and in the end, the only one you are deceiving is yourself.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

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