Blame the Technology and Australia


Continuing my search into what happened at Whitcoulls and Borders and  generally what’s going on with New Zealand retailers I am finding no surprises, which is a real worry. Two words come up a lot. Technology and Australia. I know a little of both. I live for technology and have trained many retailers over the years (including some who were already millionaires) and while the technology has changed, the principles haven’t. More on this to come.

Australia and New Zealand

As to Australia. In the 90’s many Australasian retailers who had New Zealand operated subsidiary chains based in New Zealand, decided to do away with local country management, local buyers etc.  and to save lots of money by treating their NZ shops as Australian branches. I guess they considered New Zealand as a slightly bigger Tasmania. Not huge, but worth having, especially if they didn’t put much effort into senior staffing  resources.

When performance decreased they blamed the economy, they said that NZ was just an over inflated state and it was always going to be that way, which was how they justified reducing local resources in the first place. The fact is while we may have a lot in common, we are not the same. We are made up of different cultures and history and have subtle differences in our lifestyles. Subtle enough that you can’t treat NZ stores the same as Australian stores and expect the same result.

Similar scenarios happened in many cases with the decades of American Globalisation. It’s funny really that America wanted to change Japan and the rest of Asia Pacific while Japan wanted to change the west. I well remember having discussions with senior management of Casio in Tokyo and Hamura about improving the software on their cash registers. One of the issues was that they hadn’t allowed for people pressing buttons in the wrong sequence. Have you ever been in a retail store when the ECR (Cash Register) is bleeping loud noises no matter what buttons are pushed and the stress it caused the cashier? Their initial response was “They must use the ECR in the right way or you should find better customers”. We ended up beta testing their software in NZ and Australia first and then getting Japan to tweak their software. That was one of the initiatives that helped us get 70% market share in the ECR market in NZ and helped Casio increase theirs around the world. But then of course the company I worked for was sold and I along with my boss and several other great people were made redundant despite the fact that we were doing really well, but because they thought we were earning too much. I’d love to know what their market share is in NZ now. I know it isn’t 70%. Anyway I’m going off on a tangent.

The big thing I noticed in the NZ stores was inventory management. They were carrying a lot of books that I wouldn’t think anyone would buy other than as a joke. I went back to Borders a week ago to jot some of the names down, but it looks like they went in the $1, $2, $5 sale and were gone. They had many dated books especially computing which must have been in store for several years, technical books on how to use software that almost no one has used in the last 5 years.

From what I’ve been told, someone automated the purchasing software to replace books that had sold, so for example if a particular book sold really well, say 5,000 copies, the system would replace with another 5,000 copies. Well there goes the profit from the first lot.

One of the things that makes New Zealand different is our ethnic communities. All over New Zealand, but particularly in Auckland we have clusters of ethnic communities; Chinese, Korean, South African, Indian, Pacific Islanders and more. Brands who fail to take that into consideration waste massive levels of stock by having the wrong product in the wrong locations, which then becomes shop soiled and potentially unsaleable.

Inventory needs to be managed locally by category managers who understand and are at the leading edge of their category and who understand their local market. They need to know weekly what is going on and understand who their customers are and what they are buying. Some books date more quickly than others and need to be moved on quickly, others will hold their value longer, but will still have a rapid half life.

In my previous blog about Whitcoulls and Borders I wrote about how they could follow the example of Amazon and know what their individual repeat customers were buying and therefore their interests and could recommend books to them. Amazon continue to prove that people in NZ will buy based on recommendations along the lines of “You bought these 3 books, other people who bought the same books also enjoyed the following titles”. Not only do we often buy them, but we also pay massive freight costs to get them here, at the same time as local book retailers are discounting stock that people aren’t buying. How smart is that?

One good way of dealing with this is using Business Analytics or Business Intelligence tools such as BIonaMAP, soon to be launched by New Zealand geospatial solution provider, GeoSmart. Fortunately for retail chains, this product will support both Australia and New Zealand, so users can have visibility over both countries.

BIonaMAP

The future of personal computing Part One


I was reading a story in a local magazine the other day, I forced myself because I’m interested, but at first glance it was not very insightful in my humble opinion. I get so tied up trying to make the future happen that sometimes I don’t sit back and think about it in more depth and I should.

There has been a lot of talk about the Semantic Web and about sharing data on the web with lots of applications and people, lots of talk about collaborating with other people and for sure that is happening. I use Friendfeed, I’m active on Facebook, sometimes Flickr, Buzznet, LinkedIn and loads more. Twitter is the only one I really use on my Blackberry, which doesn’t suit many of the social networking applications very well.

The problem I have with putting information on web sites such as Gmail and others is can I rely on it being there forever? I love the idea of being able to access everything anywhere anytime and A3 (cubed) is one of my mantras, but ignoring security I still have fears over losing access to my data, like when recently Mucaah.com, a web site in the Netherlands where I was building a fan base disappeared overnight.

But anyway, looking to the future, the big next thing for me is LBS or Location Based Services and on any device, any time. It is about interacting with your environment and your social network in real places in real time. Sure a lot of people including myself spend a lot of time at desktops, but I plan to do much more of my computing, especially social computing at a mobile level.

I have owned a myriad of devices and still have many of them including Palm’s, A Casio Zoomer, Symbol’s, iPaq’s, iMate as well as other Smartphones from a variety of brands. I worked hard to help bring these products into mainstream and not just as clever phones but as tools to enhance the way people react in this world. To that end in the beginning of this century I wrote Unleashing the Road Warrior, Master Your Palm and master Your Pocket PC. All of these were about maximising the potential of these devices and the communications to help you work and play smarter rather than harder, another personal mantra. I don’t mean you shouldn’t play hard, but that it shouldn’t be hard work.

Hopefully my next one, whether it’s a new Blackberry, iPhone, Xperia or something else, will have a GPS chip in it and a variety of applications that will enable my mobile world. I have some major activities in mind to help develop this area of computing and turn it into a reality.

So looking a few years into the future, what is my vision? I could write a book, but like my last ones they date very quickly, so this blog will have to do. The biggest impact of these technologies will be social, after all people do business with people, they have relationships with people and those relationships and networks have far more power when they are spatially enabled.

Over the last few years applications like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Buzznet, Flickr, Twitter and more have been the most popular development in computing or social computing at least and people are loving it, but whilst many of these applications are now able to be used in a mobile environment (for example I use Twitter on my phone), the don’t have a spatial component yet.

So lets have a brief look into the near future. In one of my previous blogs I described a typical day for me on the Internet. Now lets have a bit of a look at what that same day might look like in 2013.

I wake up to the sound of my current favourite song which is being played on my iPhone V6 which is in the dock of my alarm clock. Note this is the latest model, but they have been around since 2008. I get up and go into the bathroom, taking my iPhone with me and put it into my bathroom dock which has water resistant wiring so that it doesn’t corrode from the steam of my hot shower.

While I was asleep my iPhone connected to iTunes, not through Vodafone who are still greedy in their data prices but wirelessly to my wireless router which connects to my fibre-optic internet connection with its guaranteed minimum 100Mbps connection and updated all my favourite podcasts in a matter of 30 seconds.

It automatically starts playing the podcasts in order of preference while I shower and I catch up with the latest in tech news from Channelflip and Geekbrief.

As I have breakfast I plug my iPhone into the projector pod and catch up with the latest personalised news which is displayed on the dining room wall and catch up with the things I am interested in.

I’m going to stop here for now, because it’s obvious that this is going to be longer than I intended and if I don’t post it now it will never finish or will become a book. So RSS or bookmark this blog if this is of interest to you:)

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)