Thursday, October 14, 2004

The new era of retail wants to be the old era of retail

Yahoo News is carrying a story on the use of wireless technology in the retail environment, Yahoo! News - 7-Eleven Adopting Wireless Technology. The focus is on 7-11 and slurpee inventory management, but there is a very interesting quote in the middle of the article:

"'Retailers are trying to get back to where they were in 1905,' said Cathy Hotka, a retail consultant in Arlington, Va. 'Back then they knew you, knew your credit, knew what you wanted to buy and how to stock it.' "

It is an interesting observation and I have little doubt that it is true. But today, I am not sure that this 1905 paradigm is what the shopper is looking for. Back then the relationship went both ways. Your local general store knew about your business, but the consumer knew the owner of the general store and most of its activities were out in the open. He wouldn't dare do anything nefarious with the customer's information because the customer would simply walk. It's a matter of trust. I think some retailers can get back to "where they were in 1905", but they have to do it with transparency and earned trust.

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