Open to 21st century values

Retailing in the 21st Century—a Values-Based Way of Doing Business

This is a perfect time to be a retailer (or to realize that you are one). The 21st century offers—and requires—something very different from retailing in the last century.

There has been a cultural shift of values in businesses and in society as a whole. It used to be thought that in order to be successful in business including retail, you had to be tough, hardhearted, calculating and focused only on results; in other words, kind of an asshole. And the corollary was also thought to be true: that people who were cold and tough were assumed to be good at whatever they were doing.

But that is 20th-century stuff. And frankly, it’s over. The 20th-century message in business, including retail, was all about “leadership,” “customer service,” and “management by objectives.”  It’s not that these values are gone. But inspired leadership, excellent customer service, and achieving objectives are no longer the end goal; today, they are the starting point, the price of admission. In the 21st century, the most important values are authenticity, honesty, and community—a journey worth embarking on.

  1. Authenticity. In terms of both the product and human retail relationships, authenticity is immediately transparent and communicated. It cannot be faked.
  2. Honesty. In the context of The Five Laws, this isn’t about not stealing, or not doing accurate financial reporting. It’s about honestly facing the truths of a business—for example, “If the product didn’t sell this fall, it won’t do better next fall.”
  3. Community. This may be the greatest value of all. Community is about the people, employees, and customers who make up all the constituents of the enterprise. A well-conceived and well-run business that “puts people first” (The First Law) will create and sustain a positive community of happy participants.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “The Five Laws of Retail”. 

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