My 10 fundamentals of retail

There are 10 fundamentals to retail. They are what separate the successful operators from the weak, the wishful and the deluded.

1. Retail is about people. By people. For people.

This is a simple truth, but it’s impeded by feeble administration and inconsequential management burdened by a flock of bootlickers. The reality belongs to the customer, but influence comes down to leadership.

2. The five senses of perception

Taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. Stores are no longer a place to shop, instead, they are destinations for entertainment. Companies that stray from this and don’t satiate human desire and aspiration face irrelevance. This is reflected in the limits of online shopping seen in under-performing basket sizes, poor add-on execution and exorbitant hidden costs.

3. Tread the boards

The industry invests millions fabricating atmospheres in pursuit of the ultimate experience. They spare no expense on fixtures, lighting and fittings to coordinate ambience, packaging and point of sale to please the eye. They commit huge resources in the hope of predicting the psychological needs and wants of the shopper to lull them into ease of convenience. However, few consider the impact of human interaction; a gut evaluation based on eye contact, a nod or facial expression.

4. Attention to detail

Retail always has been and must always be an open and honest endeavour with an inherent passion for excellence. There is no room for hypocrisy and falsehood. It takes a blend of hard work and genius.

5. On trend

Experience comes before product. The clarity of a well-defined pricing strategy is elementary in building a loyal client base, whereas, the integrity of the model builds trust and engagement. The smallest deviation draws contempt and certain repercussion.

6. Entrepreneurial culture

Micromanagement is a deepening compulsion. It is time to let it be. Set out desired outcomes of compliance, vision and concept then step back and allow the freedom of spirit and intuition to deliver it. Find the courage to accept that every person is unique, or prepare for the crippling effect of 1984’s Orwellian servitude.

7. Leadership

It is not about power, but influence. Summoning the grit to realise a change for the betterment of all; taking a stand in what you believe is right despite popular sentiment and regardless of the backlash; showing compassion and strength of character. Leadership serves the people, whilst management tends to one’s own flawed notion.

8. Community

This is the most critical aspect, yet few do much besides pay lip service. It is not about collecting for charities by fleecing customers at the checkouts, nor is it about paying civil dues or placating a collective conscience. We need to engage in our neighbourhoods via inclusive and meaningful employment, especially those sidelined by differing ability and social prejudice, and develop a new reality of what we can do to improve upon practices in education, health and socioeconomic influences.

9. Sustainability 

Retailing has a poor record when it comes to the sustainability of the planet, but the banning of single-use bags is but a diversionary ploy. Selling so-called ‘green’ products is no longer tolerable, because of the impact it has on natural resources, and placing the onus on the end user just doesn’t wash and says a lot about the industry’s mindset.

10. Space

It’s a thermometer to the efficiencies of every outlet. Space integrity is of the utmost importance while capacity is but a state of mind. There must also be an attitude of what is not workable or plausible. Both factors are reliant on the aptitude of the leadership and in the team’s mentorship.



  1. Brian Walker posted on March 19, 2019

    Nice commentary Dave I think you implied it , although knowledge of the mechanics of retail , understanding the moving parts And measure , lift the bar etc would have been in my top 10, Great leaders know the detail Best fit Retail Brian Walker

  2. Mark Schroeder posted on March 20, 2019

    Here's another: creativity. (Call it innovation, if you prefer). Retail needs (and shoppers want) new ideas, new solutions and new vision. Sadly 30-odd years of "what would Gerry do" combined with looking the other way while the world digitised has stripped the sector of its creative drive here in Australia.

  3. Peter Spring posted on March 20, 2019

    Well said Mr Schroeder and totally agree.

  4. David MFarrell56541 posted on March 20, 2019

    Thanks Jeanne

  5. Katherine Evans posted on March 24, 2019

    Great article Dave. I have no issue with digital in the retail mix, it adds to the the theatre, but ultimately as humans we are hardwired to connect. The smart retailers today are teaching their teams to be consummate connectors because they realise that 83% of Australians will pay more for brands that they feel connected to.

  6. David MFarrell56541 posted on March 25, 2019

    Agree, thanks Katherine.

  7. David MFarrell56541 posted on March 25, 2019

    Cheers, Brian. Always appreciate your input.

  8. Lyssa posted on October 27, 2019

    Interesting read Dave – I’d like to add my own two cents addressing the first point you make from the perspective of someone who’s worked in ‘on the floor’, face-to-face retail customer service for many years. Retail exists because of people and without people, there is no retail. Unfortunately, this is a truth upper level management seem to have conveniently forgotten. Nearly every business I’ve worked for has operated under the premise running the floor on bare bones maximises profit for the business...and coincidentally increases irritation to the customers and abuse of the floor staff (who have no say over the number of hours they are rostered, especially if they are casual as most are – permanent positions are increasingly rare). Decreasing casual weekend penalty rates does not encourage businesses to roster more staff on the weekends (typically the busiest trade days of the week). Instead, management sees this as a double bonus where they can further increase their profits whilst still running on skeleton staff. If there was more of a genuine focus on and care towards floor staff, retail businesses would find they have lower turnover, happier staff, better customer service, loyal return customers and decreased stock theft. Considering retail is driven by people, perhaps it’s worth remembering that floor staff are one of a retail business’s most valuable assets.

  9. dave posted on November 9, 2019

    Thanks, Lyssa. No arguments from me. People add value which will always make its way to the bottom line.

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