retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Let’s face it; the world has gotten absurdly complex. That’s the reason there are so many issues we cover here on MNB - including some that readers question. The reality is that nothing is simple any more and we believe there are lessons to be learned from a discussion of almost anything.

That growing complexity means we need to thank about a wide range of issues differently these days, especially when it comes to thinking about long term strategy.

For instance, I can basically understand why a company like Walmart is talking to Humana health care or why Kohl’s simultaneously is allocating space to Aldi and partnering with Amazon. In each of these cases, there are interesting business ideas at play and emerging strategies on ways to get or keep customers inc retailers’ ecosystems.

But more importantly, I think we might have entered an entirely new level of strategy and that’s a challenge to all of us. Great game players - whether it’s chess, Scrabble or even baseball - understand the importance of thinking long. It’s said of great baseball managers that they are always thinking two or three innings ahead of the present, if not two or three games ahead.

Likewise, chess masters make all kinds of complex moves, at times willingly losing pieces to set up certain strategies and make certain they control important parts of the board. Like those baseball managers they are thinking many moves ahead of the current game.

Business is requiring much of the same these days especially with the growing complexity of both electronic and omnichannel commerce. To my thinking it’s why we see many unexpected alliances these days, whether it involves specific retailers aligning with Instacart or Walmart looking for different ways into the health care business. I believe people way above my pay grade are trying to strategically grab key places around the board to enable future moves.

Here’s the thing: I may not understand the strategy or goal behind all of those moves and frankly, I don’t have to because my business isn’t about running stores or selling products. MNB readers don’t have the same luxury; you are in the game. And I think that’s why it’s more important than ever to force yourselves to think strategically and look a few moves ahead, even while the here and now is screaming for your attention.

I think that’s going to put more pressure than ever on building good relationships with others who might aid that thinking. For retailers that could mean working closer with trading partners - wholesalers and suppliers - and certainly forming alliances with fellow retailers. More than ever, we all need to seek out and value honest feedback from everyone around us to prepare for whatever may come.

Heck, it even makes the strange lessons we love to find here at MNB more important because even the most remote story might provide inspiration for something that gets us thinking and acting in a new way.

It is, after all, a whole new ballgame.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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