Breakthrough Insights (Second Half 2011, Focus on the Horizon)
Welcome to Kantar Retail’s semi-annual collection of Breakthrough Insights — our recent research pieces that we feel best reflect the key issues in the rapidly changing retail landscape.
By Kantar Retail
Many years ago, my father took me deep-sea fishing for the first time, and during the voyage I began to feel more than a little queasy. My Dad looked down at me at one point and saw me closing my eyes, hoping that the swells rocking the boat would pass. His simple instruction to me at the time is something that has stuck with me ever since:“The only way you’ll feel better is if you keep your eyes open and focused on the horizon. Your eyes will see the movement you feel in your head, and you’ll stop feeling sick.”
I’ve thought of that advice many times over the years, and quite frequently recently as the queasiness has come back with a vengeance in the second half of 2011. Those of us in the northeastern United States have experienced hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and a freak late autumn blizzard in this six-month period, and that’s even before we think about the turbulent global economic and retail landscape! I’ve written many times in the last six months about the need to cope more effectively in uncertain and volatile times, but I have gradually come to realize a simple point that to some degree contradicts that characterization of the world today: only infrequent volatility is uncertain.
What we are faced with today, and what Kantar Retail believes will be the modus operandi for the global retail marketplace in 2012 and beyond, is a sort of perpetual volatility — at which point volatility becomes a known that needs to be planned for, not an unknown that surprises. Management guru Jim Collins builds on this idea in his writings on why formerly great companies fail. Great companies are rarely derailed by the unknown, as the unknown tends to relatively evenly impact all companies and their competitors. Great companies that avoid failure do so with one simple skill: the ability to sift through the known to find the truly important, and to plan and act in a way that deals with and capitalizes on that “known.”
In pursuit of that theme, what you will find in Kantar Retail’s H2 Breakthrough Insights collection is a series of works that define the major factors that are shaping the retail landscape and what the strategies should be that surround those “great big knowns.” To establish the case for this more permanent volatility, our Chief Economist Frank Badillo has contributed two pieces that highlight its root causes and effects: the first on the uncertainty associated with many of the major retail markets around the world and the second focusing on the continued troubled outlook for the U.S. retail environment
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