Retail

There will be more retail change in the next 10 years than in the past 50. David shares some of the issues so you are on the right side of the curve.

The History Of Retail In 100 Objects – The Cuneiform Tablet

Cunieform

It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post –  This weeks objects is- The Cuneiform Tablet.

Civilisation ’s need to write things down , make a list, keep a record, categorise data and thereby pay taxes, goes back to the earliest times. The first system of writing used to record this information (that is known to us) is called ‘Cuneiform script ’. Cuneiform used pictorial symbols set out in columns on clay tablets, using a blunt reed for a stylus. The blunt reeds left a ‘wedge shaped’ impression , and this is where the name cuneiform comes from, the Latin for ‘wedge’. This writing system began in Sumer, in Mesopotamia, as long ago as 8000 BC. The early tablets were in their simplest form principally used for record keeping – agrarian inventories for grain, animals and equipment. But as the ancient world increasingly urbanised, these writings took on a more commercial form and were employed to record bargains sealed, ships’ cargoes, and lists of manufactured goods. Early Sumerians used cuneiform to list the clay tokens they used to exchange and store their agricultural and manufactured goods. The clay tokens were put in clay containers and they impressed onto the sealed containers, one picture for each token inside the container. As time passed, it became a standard practice for the major cities to date documents by year, names, and their respective kings. It also became a way of calculating how much people should pay in taxes. These early writings in turn led to their use for everyday purposes, not least in shopping. Dr Irvine Finkel, of the British Museum and noted Cuneiform scholar, has established that some of the earliest tablets he has examined are shopping lists!

 Contribution to Retail History

Cuneiform tablets highlight our shopping journey from the ancient world to modern times. The shopping bag and the shopping list have survived the journey of time and civilisations. Both have been in use for millennia and whilst we have little evidence of an ancient bag, it is interesting to see from the many clay tablets that have survived, that the ancients wrote out their lists just as we do today.

The History Of Retail In 100 Objects Is Available As A Free Podcast

History of Retail

The History of Retail in 100 Objects – The Abacus

Abacus

Today is the start of the Tuesday, History Of Retail In 100 Objects, series

This weeks object is… The Abacus.

Traders have always needed counting boards of some kind. The earliest versions, which predated the abacus, would have been used by traders at markets. Traders drew lines in the sand with their fingers or a stylus of some kind. They would then place pebbles between those lines to represent numbers.  The Abacus – or counting frame  – evolved from ancient times, through to the Middle Ages and Modern Times. In 500 BC the early counting boards included The Salamis Tablet, the Ro man Calculi and the hand-abacus. The Roman hand abacus was often made from stone and metal.  In the Middle Ages came the Apices, the coin-board, and the Line-board, which date from 5 AD to around 1400 AD.  Most were made from wood, and originally the beads on which you counted ran vertically. By the time the system had evolved to Line-boards, the columns ran horizontally.  From 1200 AD the abacus evolved into the Chinese suan-pan, the Japanese soroban, and the Russian schoty.

The classic Chinese abacus is the one we are most familiar with. It has two beads on the upper deck and 5 on the lower deck, and is often called the  ‘2/5’ abacus. From about 1850 this was replaced with the ‘1/5’ abacus, with one bead on the top deck and five beads on the bottom deck.  The Chinese abacus was further adapted by Lee Kai-Chen, and by 1958  the ‘new’ abacus could be found in use,  complete with an instruction book. It has more decks top and bottom combining the 1/4 soroban model and the 2/5  suan-pan style. Kai-Chen said it was a  “Revolution of Chinese Calculators”. Traders have always needed counting boards of some kind. The earliest version s, which predated the abacus, would have been used by traders at markets. Traders drew lines in the sand with their fingers or a stylus of some kind. They would then place pebbles between those lines to represent numbers.  The Abacus – or counting frame  – evolved from ancient times, through to the Middle Ages and Modern Times. In 500 BC the early counting boards included The Salamis Tablet, the Roman Calculi and the hand-abacus.

The Roman hand abacus was often made from stone and metal.  In the Middle Ages came the Apices, the coin-board, and the Line-board, which date from 5 AD to around 1400 AD. Most were made from wood, and originally the beads on which you counted ran vertically. By the time the system had evolved to Line-boards, the columns ran horizontally. From 1200 AD the abacus evolved into the Chinese suan-pan, the Japanese soroban, and the Russian schoty. The classic Chinese abacus is the one we are most familiar with. It has two beads on the upper deck and 5 on the lower deck, and is often called the  ‘2/5’ abacus. From about 1850 this was replaced with the ‘1/5’ abacus, with one bead on the top deck and five beads on the bottom deck.  The Chinese abacus was further adapted by Lee Kai-Chen, and by 1958 the ‘new’ abacus could be found in use, complete with an instruction book. It has more decks top and bottom combining the 1/4 soroban model and the 2/5 suan-pan style. Kai-Chen said it was a  “Revolution of Chinese Calculators”.

Contribution To Retail History

As the first known calculating mechanism, the abacus enabled merchants and traders to add, subtract,  multiply and divide without the use of pebbles, twigs or other ‘representations’.  Being liberated to work on larger, more complex calculations was a significant advancement in the earliest days of retail management.

The History Of Retail In 100 Objects Is Available As A Free Podcast

History of Retail

 

The History Of Retail In 100 Objects

HoR_100 Objects Cover

I recently edited a book and narrated podcast series called The History of Retail In 100 Objects. It was a partnership with The Store WPP and Intel. It has always concerned me that from the very first transaction, retail has always played a vital part in the fabric of life yet never really been recognised as a major driver of society. In fact the history of retail and social developments are inextricably linked. So… inspired by The British Museum’s, History of the World in 100 Objects, I set out to define the key objects, which over time have had a profound impact on the development of retail.

Arriving at the list of 100 objects has been an enriching experience. It has generated much heated debate with many different perspectives and opinions for the inclusion or exclusion of objects. Our list of 100 objects has been arrived at through collaboration and combining wisdoms – the wisdom of crowds and the wisdom of experts. Using social networks around the globe we first asked for objects to be nominated. We received thousands. An advisory board of experts from different disciplines were invited to help shortlist the most defining objects. I believe that that there will be more change in retail in the next 10 years than there has been in the past 50. So, in conjunction with our partners on this project, Intel and the Intel ‘Futures’ team, we have looked into the future to try to define what objects, not invented yet or commercialised, will have a considerable impact in the years to come. We included seven objects that shed light on where the future is going.

This is the first of many collaborations with Intel to better define the retail future. While the future of retail is uncertain, the one certainty is that the combination of retail, technology, creativity and understanding the changing consumer has never been so intertwined and vital for success.

So starting tomorrow and on every Tuesday  I am going to feature on this blog one object that earned its place in The History Of Retail in 100 Objects.

And if you cant wait for each Tuesday you can download the entire podcast series featuring the story of every 100 Object and the future objects from the link at the bottom of this post.

I am indebted to our Intel partnership team led by Joe Jenson, Jose Avalos, Maroun Ishac, Adrian Whelan, Steve Power Brown, Megan Bednarz and to Brian David Johnson, Director, Future Casting, Interactions and Experience Research Intel.

I hope that you find The History of Retail in 100 Objects and the future objects  interesting and thought provoking.

The future is not what it used to be.

History of Retail

The Biggest Supermarket Day Of The Year

Supermarket

Today will be the biggest sales day of the year for supermarkets here in England. With sales starting early and finishing late. As an example ASDA (part of WalMart) will process some 12 million transactions an hour as Christmas food shoppers stock up to make sure that they don’t run out of anything on Christmas day. With supermarket logistics stretched to the limit, today is the test for all that infrastructure investment and logistics planning

Where Have All The People Gone?

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The office is a stones throw from Oxford Street. On my way back home over the past week I have been going the long way and doing a non-scientific retail audit. Taking a sector each day and looking at what is going on along the street. After all, this should be the biggest week of the year for most. On Monday my chosen sector was apparel. What struck me was how relatively empty of shoppers most of the apparel stores were. Which made me think where have all the shoppers gone? With the growth of on-line apparel and pure plays like Asos more and more are clicking.

But it was my last stop of the evening at the end of Oxford Street where the answer came.  The one store that was literally heaving with hustling and bustling shoppers and long queues at the check out was  – Primark the value retailer or as they would like to define themselves  – keeping up with the latest looks without breaking the bank.

So that’s were they all were.

Indicative of the winners this holiday season? It’s a bit too early to tell but that’s where I would put my money in the apparel sector.

 

For The Person Who Has Everything

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What do you give the person who has everything?

If UK departments store legend Selfridges and The Royal Collage of Arts have anything to do with it – a unique one off piece of art from their pop up Christmas shop within a shop located on the ground floor of the Selfridges iconic flagship store in Oxford Street, London.

In a move that would have made founder Harry Gordon Selfridge, the masterful showman who created Selfridges, which opened its doors on March 15th 1909, smile with approval. Selfridges have partnered with the Royal Collage of Arts and created something truly unique with a price tag to match. It’ s not for your stocking filler.

Whilst Selfridges is synonymous with retailing, The Royal Collage of Arts (RCA) is not. The Collage was founded in 1853 and is one of the world’s most influential postgraduate universities of art and design. Its impressive list of alumni includes Tracy Emin, Peter Blake, Christopher Bailey, James Dyson, Ridley Scott, David Hockney and Ian Dury, to name but a few.

The concept of this store is simple yet effective.

It is called One & Only and that is what it is.

Inside the space you will discover, see and be able to buy one of a kind pieces from some of the RCA’s most esteemed recent graduates who are already making waves in their respective fields.

Your chance to give your loved one, and by the price tags you will need to love them a lot, something totally unique and if the past RCA’s hall of fame is anything to go by, a gift that will keep on giving by appreciating in value as well.

Another example of how retail spaces are changing: more flexible spaces; the fusion of retail, entertainment and art; collaborations with different, eclectic and unusual partners; adding different dimensions to their brand proposition and values to become more meaningfully differentiated.

Expect to see more of these interesting collaborations and don’t just sit on the side-lines –  go out and actively seek collaborations and ‘guest’ partnerships.

It is more important than ever to continue to give consumers reasons to shop out rather than just shop in.

Christmas Has Come Early

Early Morning POS Change

Early Morning POS Change

It’s always a classic example of game theory.  Hold your nerve, out stare the competition or cut and run. If it were not so serious it would be a fun game as profits, bonuses and even very survival depend on it.

Yes it’s the call about when to cut prices and play the volume/cash game (another Christmas classic) in the run up to the close of business on Christmas eve.

It has been many, many years since discounting could be relied upon only to start on Boxing Day.

From the customer perspective how long can you hold out until you need to do the bulk of your Christmas shopping and when do you think the discounting will start? Who will blink first you, or the retailer your shopping list items are sold at?

Well its started early this year in London, so I guess it’s the retail nerves that broke first in 2013. Last Friday two full shopping weekends prior to Christmas many retailers started the day by putting up the sale signs, especially in the apparel sector, as they cut and ran. And once one goes, the rest follow fast.

Not a good sign. But there will be winners and losers. Hold onto your hats.  There is a lot to play for over the next few weeks including the important sales post Christmas. But this year it’s looking a lot like the real winner will be the consumer.

In Retail Conversation With…

in retail

 

For those of you not able to get a place on my retail conversation with Bryan Roberts from Kantar Retail a couple of week ago… as promised we have managed to find a way of creating a recording of it. Please excuse the sound at the beginning which is a bit low, it gets better a few moments in. We covered a lot of ground including a deep dive on Tesco’s. Bryan knows his stuff and was a pleasure to do this broadcast with. I hope you find it insightful.

Not So Fresh and Easy

It looks like the end is near for Fresh and Easy. Tesco’s format for the US, which in 2007, saw its first store open. A while back Tecso’s signalled that it was looking for an exit strategy for the loss making 200+ store. Talks have reportedly been taking pace with ALDI and Trader Joe’s but nothing has yet come of it. After the Ester peak trading for Tesco’s in the UK, CEO Philip Clarke is reportedly going off the US to quicken the exit pace. If a fast sell to one of the US retail groups does not look possible, selling the chain off store by store might be an option on the table for Clark. The multitude of different store shapes and sizes that form the 200+ chain is one of the issues that potential buyers have been struggling with to make an acquisition work.

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