Readers of this blog will be aware of the occasional use of guest bloggers and of book reviews. A couple of weeks ago my colleague Steve Burt showed me a new retail book he had bought, authored by two contemporaries of his and mine. Both Alan Treadgold and Jonathan Reynolds will be well known to many academics and retailers. A couple of days later an e-mail flier from Alan hit my inbox, ‘selling’ the book.
It is summer, I’m feeling lazy, the book looks interesting but I don’t have the time to read it just yet. So, I’ve asked Alan Treadgold to blog about the thought process behind the book and what he hopes it delivers. His post is produced below; the only problem is that he makes so much sense that I have decided I have to read the book before the summer is out – I could do with some of the optimism about retail that Alan claims to provide and I also like being considered as a thoughtful person (though others will no doubt disagree, Alan sent me an email so I must be part of the target market)! Getting beyond the ‘internet is here’ axiom is also really attractive and very necessary.
So when you buy or read the book then let myself or Alan know if he delivers on his thoughts below. Over to Alan:
“Leigh Sparks was kind enough to ask me to write a piece about my new book, “Navigating the New Retail Landscape: A Guide for Business Leaders”. It has just been published by Oxford University Press and I co-wrote it with Jonathan Reynolds, Academic Director at the Oxford Institute of Retail Management (OXIRM) at the University of Oxford’s Business School, and my long-term friend and periodically colleague and collaborator.
Perhaps the first thing to say is that I’m not an academic. I have been in the past at Oxford and in Melbourne but both roles were a very long time ago now. I’m an adviser to companies and senior executives. I’ve worked in ‘blue chip’ management consulting firms around the world and I’ve been CEO of national advertising agencies and run large pieces of business for global ad agencies. Retail is the industry that interests me most and, within that, it is the relationship between retailers and their shoppers that is where most of my work is done and my interest and expertise lies.
The idea for the book came from working with and engaging with a lot of senior retailers in a lot of sectors and countries during the course of my advisory work. What was so striking to me back in 2012 / 13 was that so many senior executives running retail businesses seemed – frankly – lost about how to operate them in a manner to survive, let alone grow. It really didn’t seem to matter much at all where I was in the world or which sectors of retailing I was working in, the issues of CEOs and their leadership teams were always very similar. The narrative that retailing was digitising rapidly and that whole sectors were migrating online at accelerating pace was pretty well recognised. But how to re-engineer and indeed re-imagine entirely a retail business to be successful in this very changed reality seemed to be not at all well understood. Oh, and at the same time that profound structural change was underway, many leaders also had the far from insignificant challenge of trying to trade their way through one of the deepest consumer recessions that many of us have lived through.
I wanted to write something that I thought could be of genuine usefulness to business leaders tasked with delivering success in radically changed and often, to them, very unfamiliar environments. I wanted the book to be structured and written in a way that was accessible to that audience but also rigorous in its approach and coherent in its arguments. That was why I asked Jonathan to be my co-author and bring to the process the discipline of an outward looking academic at a highly reputable business school.
It’s a book in two parts because the narrative is in two parts. We’ve tried in Part 1 to define the nature of change in the retail industry globally, to describe and define the main drivers of change which are radically and permanently reshaping the landscape of retailing. Technology looms very large, of course, but it is not the only driver of retail sector transformation. Part 2 puts the focus on the enterprise capabilities and structures and the personal leadership skills that we feel businesses and their leaders will need to have if they are to successfully transition their enterprises such that they are equipped to be successful in these very changed worlds. A wide diversity of case studies of varying lengths appear throughout to illustrate the themes under discussion.
I hope that what we have written is a book for thoughtful people who understand that the world of retailing is a complicated place and the answers are not simple. (Anyone who wants to read about the 5 or 12 or however many steps to achieving success in retailing should look elsewhere. Or better still not waste their time at all.) Perhaps, above all, two points about the book are important. Firstly, this is an optimistic book. It is implicit across the book and in a number of places explicit on the page that periods of great change are also periods of great opportunity. Opportunity to radically redefine businesses, engage with shoppers in very different ways and leapfrog the competition. It is not a book about how to mitigate against the risks of failure and business collapse; it is much more a book about how to realise opportunities. Secondly, while it is not a book with a GPS-style “Roadmap for Success”, it is very definitely a book with plenty of points of guidance for business leaders (Hence the subtitle) I hope that we have moved far beyond the endless tedium of being told that “we’re all living in an omni-channel” world and instead offer clear guidance on what types of enterprises, what types of skills and what types of personal leadership attributes will be defining of success in the new landscape of retailing.”
Alan Treadgold can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Treadgold & Jonathan Reynolds (2016) “Navigating the New Retail Landscape: A Guide for Business Leaders” Oxford University Press (OUP). ISBN 9780198745754.
The book can be purchased at the OUP website.