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Don’t be a business dinosaur – keep an eye on the future

This week we meet some more dinosaurs of the business world with both  Toys “R” Us and Maplin going into receivership.

You’d think businesses would learn from the mistakes of past spectacular failures like Blockbusters or Kodak who didn’t or wouldn’t see the future. If you don’t move with the rapidly changing times, you’re likely to get trampled in the rush of progress. Which is exactly what has happened with these businesses.

I am not surprised, certainly not about Toys “R” Us – I’ve been thinking for some time how out of touch Toys “R” Us was.

Those soulless shops stuffed with aisles and aisles of toys. When you can buy the products on-line from the comfort of your own home, whilst reading reviews to make sure you’re making the right decision and then get it delivered to your door, for free, why would you make the trip into those life draining places?

In order for businesses like that to survive the high street/on-line battleground, they need to make their stores destination places, offering more than just the product. With demonstration areas, workshops, kid friendly activities and so on – things you can’t experience on-line.

Maplin are blaming it on Brexit, a withdrawal of credit insurance and weak consumer confidence. I suspect, it’s largely the last one that has caused the biggest problem. The last time I went into Maplin’s was well over a year ago and I went in to buy some batteries. But only because I was passing and I thought about it – so it was very much an on the spur purchase.

Ironically, it began its life as a mail order business. It should have stuck to its knitting! Other than switch mail order to online sales obviously!

Whilst it does have an online presence, it’s difficult to work out exactly what it is. I assumed electronics given its logo has ‘The electronics specialist’ incorporated into it. But if you go on to the website they also offer things like electronic toys and DIY tools. I could just about have lived with DIY tools if they all required electricity thus keeping it at least loosely linked to electronics, but no, they offer ladders and storage boxes too. And let’s not even consider their selling of household cleaning products!

I would never in a million years think Maplin’s and DIY or household cleaning products. Nor do I get how these match their strapline of ‘Connecting brilliant ideas’. They haven’t stuck to their electronic knitting at all. They’ve made the dangerous mistake of thinking they need to be all things to all people and in so doing collapsed in a morass of mediocrity.

The world is moving so fast these days that you can’t afford to be complacent and think that just because something works well today, that it will in the future.

Here is a link to a document produced by Vodafone and PWC highlighting future trends to be aware of.

How will your business adapt?

How do you monitor trends and check that you are still current?

  • A good place to start is with a SWOT analysis to identify your opportunities and threats.
  • Keep up to date with industry news.
  • Attend conferences/talks.
  • Monitoring and reviewing your sales – are some things proving more popular than others/are other products or services of less interest.
  • Talk to your customers – get feedback from them.
  • Learn from your potential new customers.
  • Adapt if necessary.
  • And repeat annually.


1 Comment
  1. Really interesting article and hits the nail on the head. You’d think big companies would have the wherewithal to stay ahead of the trends but apparently not. I hate going to Toys r Us. Your soulless reference was spot on and in fact I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than take my kids. Looks like now I won’t have to!

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About the Author:

About Karen Espley, blogging for The Chameleon GuideKaren Espley of The Chameleon Guide works with ambitious small business owners on her Profit Accelerator Programme. She brings pragmatic and real world advice in a group setting to help her clients make a significant difference to their business through increasing profits and running a highly effective business.

Offering workshops and group profit programmes for companies wanting to reach their full potential.