Why is every big retailer like a (somewhat) glorified warehouse?

  • Kmart, Bi-Lo, Coles, Woolworths (supermarket, departmental)
  • JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith, Harvey Norman, Bing Lee, Good Guys (electrical, whitegoods, computers)
  • Dymocks, Angus and Robertson (books)
  • JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith, Sanity, HMV (music, movies)

Their common characteristics appear to be:

  • Huge open space full of racks and racks of stuff to buy. And often with actual stock stored on the floor.
  • Often uses “screaming at you” TV commercials and brightly coloured sales flyers printed on thin paper.
  • Appear to compete primarily on price. Probably dependant on sales to survive.
  • Supposedly offers a huge range of goods. But provides at best only an illusion of choice – if you want anything vaguely non-mainstream, you are out of luck.

Apart from the category of goods on offer (and in some cases even this is not clearly defined), there is little real differentiation. Or perhaps there are just no interest in differentiation. After all, as long as short term revenue targets are being met…

One comment

  1. Stilgherrian said:

    That’s easy. It’s called convergent evolution.

    Now business ecology has become a management-speak cliché, but in this case it’s appropriate. All these business are trying to thrive in the same environment, and they’ve all chosen the same niche to exploit. So it’s only natural they end up being similar.

    Just like porcupines, hedgehogs and echidnas. Or rabbits and bilbies.

    Being different for the sake of being different is pointless and dangerous. If your radical mutation doesn’t give you a distinct advantage in exploiting a different ecological niche, it will very quickly become extinct.

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