An Open Letter to the Australian Retail Industry…

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Dear Reader,

Port Phillip Publishing is closed for the holidays from 25 December until 1 January. After a well-deserved break, the team will be back at work on 2 January to deliver you their unique take on the financial markets and global events. 2015 looks set to be one of the most interesting years in Aussie history, and we look forward to bringing you all the news you won’t read anywhere else.

For the holiday period we’ve collected some of the best articles of 2014, taken from all of our free e-letters: Money Morning, The Daily Reckoning, Pursuit of Happiness, and Tech Insider. Some of the articles were chosen because of their insight, others because they were so darned controversial we just had to print them again. For the next week and a half, we hope you enjoy your trip down Memory Lane with these classic ‘best-of’ editions of our free daily newsletters.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Bernd Struben,
Managing Editor, Port Phillip Publishing

An Open Letter to the Australian Retail Industry…

Shae Smith, Melbourne, Australia,
Originally Published 26 February in Pursuit of Happiness

Dear Australian retail industry,

I’ve had enough of you.

I’m sick of your fortnightly catalogues offering the latest home wares to redecorate my home for spring, or winter, or whatever the next season may be. And don’t forget the end of year silly seasons garlands you feel we must have.

And really, who needs Easter decorations? One of you retail giants reckon I should fill my house with paper chickens and bunnies in soft pastel colours for four days in April.

I mean, really? Who are these people that buy it? Is it that no one buys it and that’s why it’s on sale at the end of the four day weekend? ‘Stock up for next year,‘ a sales assistant told me last year.

Please. Be. Joking.

And tell me, what is the point of kitchen utensils that are cheaper than a bus ticket? Anyone who buys them once will find they melt in the dishwasher. People shouldn’t be back in a hurry to buy another one. And given Australia’s very small population, I can’t imagine there are enough people out there to keep buying inferior mass produced products to keep you in business…yet earnings seasons seems to prove me wrong on this point.

I digress. I’m still mad at you.

I have three enormous shopping centres within 15 minutes of my house. All filled with the same shops, same products. One of them claims to be a high end retailing centre…but the only high end thing about it is the price I pay for parking and the items I buy there.

And don’t think you’ve fooled me with your fancy swing tags attached with cotton and a safety pin versus other chains using plastic. I’m well aware that your products aren’t really better quality. That fancy paper bag with rattan handles and your logo blazoned across won’t entice me either.

You know why?

Because you’re only interested in selling to me. Well, guess what? I want you to cater to me. I want a sales assistant to understand my needs, rather than a uni student who couldn’t care less.

I want shoes that are the perfect size. Not just something that sort of fits.

You see dear retail industry, I’m more than happy to part with my money to keep you afloat.

But in exchange for that, I expect a quality product that will last years, not days. I don’t want to see my couch cushions becoming pilly from moments of normal living. And tell me, why are the seams on my dog’s bed coming undone? It’s only a few weeks old.

And what is it with these ridiculous wares you keep coming up with. Does anyone actually need a hammock for bananas? Can’t they go in the fruit bowl I already have, like the one that’s lasted me for 15 years?

Furthermore, I despise buying products that will ‘do for now’, until I find what I really want. But clever you, retail industry. What I really want isn’t out there. So with each modification or new seasonal range, slight tweaks make the items more to my liking…but never perfect.

Your nasty, manmade fibres applied in home wares, clothing and furniture aren’t making them more affordable for consumers. Simply, these cheap items are teaching us to settle for less while paying more.

Your advertising has an appalling message behind every ad with smiling face. What you’re really trying to say is, ‘If you’re not spending money consumer, you can’t be happy!’

However, change is afoot.

This incessant and unrelenting message to spend is lost on me. And others.

You’re not really scared that online shopping is damaging the retail landscape in Australia. I reckon you’re most worried about what consumers are learning from shopping online.

And my dear, despicable retail friend, what we’re learning most is patience.

Yes, not only has online shopping opened our doors to greater possibilities than you could ever offer in Australia. We’ve learned to wait for our merchandise. And that’s fine by us.

The impulsive need to buy on sale is diminishing.

Clever placement of products no longer tempts us in the way they used to. Chances are we could get it at another shopping centre. Or online. Better yet, not at all.

See online shopping has not only taught us to wait. It’s taught us to look for higher quality. Even unique items. Stuff that might improve a company or community elsewhere rather than bump up the profits of Australia’s lazy retailers.

I, like others, are happy to pay for that. And, I’m happy to wait for them to ship it to my door. Because as I’ve realised, I don’t really need anything right now.

So retail industry, be warned. Consumers are leaving, and even more will leave. Your advertising budget is in vain.

Nothing you do encourages us to barge into your stores with fistfuls of cash. The lack of options has turned shopping into a chore, not a pleasure.

You’ve spent too long presuming consumers will just spend on what you offer to us.

That time is over.

No longer are we fools for millions of items all looking rather the same. In fact, stuff made in the quantity of thousands will be a thing of the past.

By that I mean no longer will the country with the lowest labour costs make everything.

The internet has changed what and how we buy. Soon the online stores you fear so much will develop a way of custom designing any product.

The way I see it, you have two choices. Ignore your customers at your peril, and watch us happily buy less from you, but more from elsewhere.

Or shape up. Until you do that, I’m off to do some shopping…online.

Regards,

Shae Smith+
Port Phillip Publishing

Originally Published 26 February in Pursuit of Happiness.


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The Daily Reckoning offers an independent and critical perspective on the Australian and global investment markets. Slightly offbeat and far from institutional, The Daily Reckoning delivers you straight-forward, humorous, and useful investment insights from a world wide network of analysts, contrarians, and successful investors. Founded in 1999, The Daily Reckoning is published in 7 countries with a worldwide readership of almost 1 million people.
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