I've come to the realization that I've hit a wall. In December, I became aware that I was writing less and less. I told myself that it was the holidays and with the various parties, visits to family, frantic retail clients--I just didn't have the time but would pick back up in the new year. New Years day has come and gone, and still...nothing. How can that be? I love fashion, I love shopping, I love analyzing everything retailers are doing- old, new, good, bad. I've been working in the industry for years and can normally talk about this stuff for days. So why the block?
I didn't really understand until I was in a cab going through SoHo up West Broadway. The redundant visual presented the harsh truth. All of my favorite stores have shut down and had been replaced with a retail giant called "SALE". You know this store. Their branding is old and strong. They always use a big, bold font, their signature color is red, and they almost always use all caps. It all happened quickly, in the blink of an eye. One day you could do a 360-degree turn in any neighborhood, in any city or town, and realize that "SALE" has completely taken over with big signs in every window announcing it's presence. I'd become uninspired and disengaged because every store and every experience had become the same.
What happened? I know retailers are hurting and I understand the need to get through inventory and increase revenues. But why is everyone doing it at the expense of their branding and brand experience? Sure, when I was doing my holiday shopping I took advantage of price breaks and I liked it. But now...it's all a haze and frankly I'm bored. At this point, if I need something I'm just going online and seeing where I can get it the cheapest. And lately trying to get excited and inspired enough about something to write about it feels an awful lot like when teachers try to convince us that "math is fun!". Don't get me wrong, there are still things out there that I love (I do still have a pulse!), but I've got to work a little too hard to find them. So here's the scary part--if a super-consumer like me feels neglected, unstimulated and unmotivated, what's the average consumer feeling...and how are they going to react?
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the total takeover of "SALE" everyone is pretty much on a level playing field. This is the perfect time for brands and retailers to start standing out and differentiating themselves. This is the perfect time to be the hero and to be the one to bring the fun and adrenalin back into shopping. Pull yourself out of whatever force of desperation has been pulling you into doing what everyone else is doing, and remember why you got into this game in the first place and what your customers really want. Branding, business values and mission statements are not meant to change with the environment, they should be guiding you when the environment changes. I remain optimistic that we'll start seeing a change for the good in the new year. I just hope that it comes sooner than later.