My Kingdom for an Electric Window Candle
Yesterday morning I ventured out into the real world to begin (albeit quite late) my Christmas shopping experience for 2011. Most of my friends have been chiming in on how they completed their shopping on Amazon (or online in general) in a few hours -Kudos to you – but in my honest opinion, there is something unfulfilling with shopping entirely online. Call me nuts, but I feel that there is a bit of value in the fact that I had to deal with the in person experience waiting at REI for 20 minutes, only to get a stainless steel BPA-free water bottle for my toddler (was on a mission from home base for this one). 1 gift down, 452 more to go…
Back to the expedition – During this experience yesterday, I walked into one of those craft stores where you usually see a load of grandmas attacking at 10am (and yes that was actually happening). What I was in there for was to find those window candles (the electric kind) that you can put up across your house. I’m personally fond of them, as it will relieve me from actually getting out side on the roof and stapling in 1000s of brittle lights that will have to come down in a week or two regardless.
After hip checking a few folks on the way to the front entrance, I was greeted with a foyer of Christmas bliss – from wreaths and advent calendars, to cheesy light up candy canes to accent your home’s walkway. Around the shelves I go, looking up and down. I see a Santa art set, a wreath making kit, a whole lot of silk poinsettias and then a box of LED icicle lights (rainbow colored none the less).. but no window candles.
I stuck my head up to look around, yet there was not an associate in sight. By the time I wandered over the candles area (yes, the real 1900s make your own kind) and asked someone I had already spent half an hour digging through this store. After discussion (and yes that took awhile to chat about an electric candle over a real one…as I’m frightened to think that some people still put real lit ones in window sills across the home) it was determined that they ‘think’ that they are out of them… seriously? you think, you don’t know? Perhaps this was the turn of the century then…
While my experience may have just been due to the slack worker that decided not to check stock, I have a suspicion that this store (and many others like it) do not have an accurate view of their own stock, their own business and are not empowered at the store level. I’m assuming that the chain has some sort of control on their business (as I do see the candles and in stock on their online store) – but what would it be worth to a store to have up to the minute data on their products and sales? Basic checkout would be able to reduce the inventory numbers locally and the management would have a better understanding of what was on the shelves minute to minute, rather than daily, weekly or monthly. I left that store willing to buy 10+ candles and perhaps some other stocking swag (think $100 or so) and am less willing to shop there, due to my experience of not finding items in stock.
With only a sub $50K investment, this store (and all stores) could empower themselves with their own local grasp of business results and analytics on a minute by minute basis. Forget just stocking the shelves (that should be table stakes in this day and age) but think about market basket analysis – They most likely have some drive from corporate to associate their products on the shelf, but local markets act and operate differently – each store could leverage local data on the fly.
As I sit back on a Sunday morning and write this entry – I think back to my soulless friends that shop entirely online – are they that soulless? or just smart as they have been through this game before. Regardless, many of today’s retailers have the opportunity to leverage more real time business intelligence on the local, regional and store level – hopefully building brand loyalty to plight of sales to competing companies with better supply chain operations.
Do I go outside today for a pontentially fruitless shopping experience – or do I guarantee success by just sitting here in front of the computer?