According to retail veteran Jim Gold, “... the only thing we can count on right now, is change.” But in his recent discussion with JOOR CEO Kristin Savilia, the former Neiman Marcus Group President and Chief Merchandising Officer expressed confidence our industry can solve for this challenge. He urged brands and retailers to stay positive and, drawing on his 30 years in retail, he offered best practices to stay on top of the current continuous flux.
Gold urged brands and retailers to keep their eyes on the trends and requirements that are here to stay while attending to short term critical tasks. “Right now, we all have to walk and chew gum,” he explained. “The pandemic has forced every company not only to deal with the crucial day-to-day, but to take an incredibly hard look in the mirror and put a stake in the ground in terms of what's most important--to make hard choices with respect to strategy and business model and how they allocate resources. The good news is, making these needed changes will help us emerge even stronger.”
The health crisis sped up the already accelerated pace of digital change, and Gold stressed the necessity for brands and retailers to reframe perspectives and priorities through a digital-first lens. “From the organizational structure of your business, to resource allocation, to your compensation models, you name it--online is now dominant. And that includes how brands and retailers transact. To navigate the fast and continuous change, it’s essential that brands and retailers alike learn how to fully leverage a digital marketplace.
Many in our industry have resisted the increasing role of technology--arguing that whatever they do cannot be replicated or replaced by a machine. According to Gold, this is 100% the wrong way to look at the situation. “Technology doesn’t replace people, it replaces tasks so people can do their jobs better. It automates areas like replenishment, markdown optimization, sales analysis, etc. and does them more efficiently. Sales associates, merchants, marketers, designers--virtually anyone working in any position on the brand or retailer side--can then leverage the information technology provides to work more strategically and creatively, serving customers better and growing their business.”
The dominance of digital has forced brands and buyers to rethink how companies do business. But according to Gold, the foundation of great retailing hasn’t changed: it’s still product, service, and people. “Being able to put together an offering that's inspiring and differentiated, that's design driven, that has great quality for the price, that's unique and creative. Service that strives to make the customer's life easier and better. A high quality team with a common mission centered around the consumer--that has respect for the company, what it stands for, how the company treats its people, and how it's led. Technology doesn’t change these things--it just helps good companies do them even better.”
According to Gold, physical retailing still has an important place. “But you can’t have too much of it, you have to focus only on locations that have great productivity potential and you need to link it effectively to your e-commerce business. You’ve got to get the product mix just right, you have to have great sales talent. The store needs to be interesting. You have to have a wide array of services and experiences. This has to all be done well enough and uniquely enough that brands want to be a part of it. And the consumer has to think you're doing it so well that they're willing to leave their living room to come visit you in person. If you can do all this in a way that complements rather than derails your digital strategy, then there’s a lot of business still to be done in brick and mortar.”
Emerging designers are the future of our industry. But due to the impact of the health crisis and the acceleration of technology, they face new challenges. “It is so much harder to be a designer today than it was ten years ago,” Gold explained. “Understanding how to leverage technology requires a totally different skillset than most fashion designers bring to the table. So it's so essential that their creative talent is supplemented with the right business, technological, and digital talent--and that they form the partnerships to make that happen. Hopefully our industry and its institutions can help facilitate those connections.”
Although right now change is our only constant, Gold explained how digital strategies can give brands the ability to stay on top of it. Like taking out the bureaucracy and using data to make informed decisions quicker, and building as much flexibility as possible into supply chain and inventory management--moving forward fast, failing fast, and learning from it. Or bringing front-end digital experience to wholesale relationships, using the available tech to give retail partners the same rich look and feel available to end consumers. And adopting the right wholesale platform helps make this agility possible. “At Neiman Marcus Group, we went with JOOR four years ago because of their history of innovation. Its fully integrated digital ecosystem is unmatched, there’s nothing else in the industry like it. With constantly improving UX and real time data, JOOR Virtual Showrooms and JOOR Passport make it as easy as possible for brands and retailers to digitally engage with one another.”
Click here to watch a recording of the entire conversation between Jim Gold and Kristin Savilia.