What is the future of retailing?
Find out how retail organisations can adopt strategies to become more resilient post-COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the retail industry. Brick-and-mortar retailers are already feeling the strain from the competitive pressures of e-commerce, weakened demand, higher rental costs, supply chain and global trade disruptions. A recent victim to succumb to these challenges is Robinsons – an iconic 160-year-old department store in Singapore which announced in November that it was closing its doors to the nation forever.
To be better prepared for such crises in the future, retailers need to re-examine conventional processes for risk assessment and strategic decision making. What alternative approaches can future retail leaders take in order to guard against suffering a similar fate?
Dr Malobi Mukherjee, Lecturer in Business at James Cook University in Singapore, suggests taking up the scenario planning approach – a process successfully used by Singapore’s policymakers as well as numerous other governments, energy companies and the military to tame or soften the blow of “wicked problems” (referring to unique problems with no immediate solution).
Scenario planning invites diverse perspectives and encourages participants to conceptualise alternative ways in which an industry could evolve and transform if the such problems were to occur. By confronting and preparing for “what if” scenarios, managers are forced to revisit, question, and challenge their existing business assumptions.
Dr Mukherjee says that “Scenario planning can provide a step-by-step, systematic framework to engage with wicked problems, raise plausible counterintuitive questions about the future from the vantage point of the present, and challenge a retail executive’s fundamental assumption about the business.”
To survive and thrive in the modern era, retailers need to embrace innovation and transformation. At the same time, they also need to focus on other factors such as the retail supply chain, and cybersecurity risks in the face of an increasingly digital world. If retailers are not mindful of these realities, they may not have a future to look forward to.
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