Friday, 24 February 2012

Why can’t we be friends?

Why do we find it so hard to think of our competition as brothers in arms when it comes to battling the dragon of “other consumer products?”

I’ve got a theory.  I believe that no matter how much retailers struggle or prosper, we think we’re living in a bubble.  We worry about consumers finding-out that there’s enough margin in jewellery for a competitor to undercut us by a good sum and then nobody will pay our asking price.  We go into a trade center with a few other jewellers, they’ll undercut us and take all of our customers away.  Or, we’ll undercut them and then we’ll be stuck with a bunch of clients that always want a deal.  There’s no honor among thieves.  It’ll all fall down like a house of cards.

Guess what folks.  It’s already happening exactly like that.  The only thing that’s missing is the high-profile and publicity of a trade-show.  It’s all a natural part of the economy; it’s what Adam Smith called the “invisible hand”; ensuring through competition that prices veer inexorably towards a position of fair value. 

I’m not saying that a retail jewellery trade show is the answer to defending jewellery’s position as a desirable consumer product, but because of my experience with consumer shows, let me finish the thought.  When I worked for Canadian National Sportsmen’s Shows, I camped-out on the roof of BC Place stadium for a publicity stunt.  We flew-in fishing gurus, built 100 foot climbing walls and built and filled pools for kayak  and fishing demonstrations (not at the same time.)  We spent tens of thousands of dollars advertising the shows and we were successful in bringing 40,000 people through the doors – to learn and to shop.  How did we get 200 or 300 exhibitors to pay money to set-up shop mere steps away from their competition?  Because together they could build more demand for more product and train-up more future consumers of sporting goods than if they sat in their little shops spending their little advertising budgets to sell a little bit of product.

Buying groups, the CJA and chambers of commerce are all groups who are looking for retailers who will set aside their fear of competition for the greater good:  the strengthening of an industry or the strengthening of a marketplace.  Get involved.  Bring your own ideas to the table.  There is strength in numbers.

The connection economy multiplies the value of what is contributed to it. It's based on abundance, not scarcity, and those that opt out, fall behind.
Sharing your money, your ideas, your insights, your confidence... all of these things return to you. Perhaps not in the way you expected, and certainly not with a guarantee, but again and again the miser falls behind. – Seth Godin

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