Thursday, January 31, 2008


I really enjoyed Kay Plantes’ article titled “Reinvention can help businesses escape death” from this month’s Capital Region Business Journal (she writes for Madison Magazine as well). Plantes discusses how businesses should constantly be on the lookout for the next innovation, the next trend, or they will die a slow death. She gives a case study of Magic Mill as an example of how not to operate. When Whole Foods moved across the street from Magic Mill, Plantes points out that Magic Mill could have used that as a push to carry more fresh foods and carryout options—which they didn’t do.

Nothing against Magic Mill, but this very concept came across my radar last week. I visited a longtime Madison retailer (who shall remain nameless) last week for article research. Stepping in the shop was like time had stopped twenty or thirty years ago. Product was disorganized and some hadn’t even been unpacked out of cardboard shipping boxes! After some discussion with the owner, I figured out that this was how the shop looked all of the time; in fact, when I asked the owner if they had just gotten a shipment in, they responded with a “No, I’m just disorganized.” Needless to say I was not too impressed with the lackadaisical approach they were taking with their inventory. I think that shop is also ticking away toward a slow death.

On the plus side, I am happy to say that many Madison retailers are very quick to innovate and sense market changes. For example, Capitol Kids has been carrying “green” toys; Context carries premium organic denim; many specialty retailers are carrying hot national brands as seen in Domino and Blueprint; JC Madison (see last week’s post) moved to a warehouse facility to better cater to their website business.
“Openness to change, creativity and keen observation of marketplace changes are necessary to avoid death,” writes Plantes. I couldn't agree more.

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