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High Street vs Megastores

As I sit here, with it positively freezing outside, I am listening to my favorite morning radio chat show as I work through my to do list. Half listening, they have been chatting about how many large retail chains have closed down in the last six weeks. It’s kinda scary. At the same time, there is a huge uproar as horsemeat has been found in certain mega food store burgers.

It seems there is a significant shift and conflict in how people purchase goods now. Online presence seems to be key for retail success where discounts and cost savings run supreme. Whilst vast megastores seem to the preferred method when consumers actually want to shop in real time.

However, it looks like we might start seeing a shift where consumers may now potentially move away from the big megastores and back to independent and unique retailers, ironically on the high street, as they fear what hidden nasties lurk in their mass-produced goods. It is often recognised that the independents are experts in their field, offer a highly personalised service with a quality product.

I can’t help but wonder how this relates to our industry for the year ahead and what lessons we could learn from the current trends in the retail industry? As an event management and venue-finding company, our growth and success is dependent upon cost savings, providing quality services with, of course, no hidden nasties along with having an online presence.

As a smaller, independently owned and financed event management and venue-finding agency, I think it fair to say that we represent the unique retailer. We compete in a world of online venue finding and event solutions along with larger agencies, which, we see as the megastores. In this shifting world, who will reign supreme?

Reading this month’s blog by Jane Hague, ‘Power to the People’, I think its clear that we too as an industry are facing a shift and need to act quickly in order to meet ever-changing and ever-increasing client (consumer) demands.

I am always dazzled and wowed by the technology in the market place, all promising to enhance our venue-finding and event management product. I certainly see its place and have been the first to try online venue-finding along with cloud-based event management tools. My fear in using these tools, however, is that it reduces the need to interact.  Can an online venue-finding tool ever capture the same cost saving as picking up the phone, building a relationship and selling the benefits of offering a better set of rates?

It is logical to use technology as our fundamental tool in delivering venue finding and event management and in fairness, it seems that our competitors (the megastores), are using it as a backbone to service delivery. So, should we follow suit?

I myself have been in the large agency world for many years, but often questioned the actual service we offered based on SOP’s, KPI’s, polices, procedures, templates, conference calls, and the list goes on. I set up Clearwater Events as I am a people person and I believe the best events are delivered when we interact with the best people. This stems from venue-finding through to negotiation and logistic delivery. To ensure this, we need experts, people who offer a highly personalised, individual service with no hidden nasties.

Now, I am not saying that our larger competitors (the megastores) don’t do this, far from it. But, what I am saying is there is a need, a possible shift and a market requirement for smaller agencies (independent retailers) such as Clearwater Events to coexist with the bigger boys. Coupled with this, there is a need for people.

As I reflect, I think I have answered my own question. For me, this year is about people, it’s about partnering with the best and interacting in the best way to offer the best event management and venue-finding solutions. I will always be fascinated by technology and we have some of own exciting technology developments that are about to go online. But, we need people to power this technology whilst offering a highly personalised service with a quality product. A machine is of course as only as cost as the person operating it.

It’s time we as an industry support each other, it’s a year where we need to dig deep and look at how trade shows and marketing opportunities can represent our own high street and mega stores whilst embracing technology that helps our people deliver events for our clients people. It’s a year which could see winners and losers, so isn’t it important we take stock and learn the lessons from the retailing world?