“Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.”―
How do we reimagine the economy, business and work? It should be our next biggest priority in this paradigm shift. I am not one of those predicting the end of physical retail or businesses. I don’t follow or support outlandish ideas. However, we need to be convinced that any recovery plan is sufficient to rebound an entire economy and leave no one behind. It just doesn’t seem to me that will happen so easily. E-commerce will continue to dominate retailing every year until physical retail reimagines itself. The internet of things continues to unfold and we are seeing it in the workplace and other businesses. I strongly believe that current shopping patterns will not revert to past practices.
There is no better way to say this except to just say it. Today I heard on a US program that if they start vaccinating in December of this year. At best the U.S. will be able to vaccinate 3o million people a month. Meanwhile, if you are like me, you will do the math, and that would lead you into late fall of 2021 before all of that is done. The Prime Minister of Canada said that 50% of Canadians will be inoculated by September 2021. Of course provided that they all start in December, January, February or March? Because of this retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot and Lulu Lemon just to name a few will dominate with their brand presence. Retail is only one of many industries being impacted. Basically, it’s just not good enough. We need far greater boldness to tackle the future.
I am therefore of the opinion, backed by over 25 years of leading businesses globally, that consumers will not get back to any kind of normal routines whatever that is before the middle of 2022. So I wanted to prove my thesis and have you consider what needs to change and boldly.
Now for context I did what I always refer to as a dirty poll, in this case I wanted to know how fast consumers will go back to normal and summarize how the economy could fare.
The question: How fast will you return to your old shopping habits once the vaccine is available?
There were 1,443 responses and four multiple choices. Conducted over 5 days (Nov 18-22/2020)
1. Within 1 month. 30.8%
2. 3 months after (the vaccine) 22.2%
3. 6 months after (the vaccine). 15.9%
4. Wait 6-12 months 31.1%
Conducted by Inception Retail Group Inc.
As a result, it seems that everyone who responded to this likely wants the vaccine and each has some sense of how long they believe they need to wait. Translation, how long before they can go out again.
If we were to have all Canadians vaccinated by the middle of 2021, more likely late 2021. About 47% of those that responded said that they will either wait between 6-12 months. Post vaccine before they return to old habits. That brings us to 2022. Therefore, that doesn’t bode well for businesses, jobs or the economy. In other words, a lot of other things can happen in that 18 month timeframe. These numbers are screaming for more consumer confidence. We must Reimagine the economy, business and work, because these have been altered. Altered by a virus and an accelerated shift to technology based consumerism. To get out of this businesses will need bold leaders who can reimagine business and the future.
No matter what you think of how progressive technology is. There will always be a place for retail, restaurants, theatres etc. However, many operators are being wishful and want to believe that somehow consumers are just going to return because they’ve missed not going out. I only wish that is how this plays out. Reimagining the economy, business and work must happen for any new economy to succeed and consumers need to feel and see that coming together.
Often we hear the analogies and comparisons to wartime scenarios with respect to the virus. Respectfully, except for the deployment of the vaccine by the military. I beg to differ, the comparison is inaccurate. It is not at all like a military war, where an end is called and people can simply return to their old lives. Even during wartimes in Canada and the U.S. we were never disrupted like this. In addition, the public is already questioning the vaccine, how long are we immune for? Will we need to take it annually like the flu shot? Does that mean the virus remains with us? Above all, as long as the public questions decision making, the longer it will take before an economy can recover. If we want to acceptance and greater adoption leaders need to have the boldness to state reality.
We all know developed and developing countries and their governments globally are likely to respond to all of this by printing more money. With the end goal of injecting some sort of stimulus plan to reignite economies, which may have a marginal impact. Why? Outdated 20th century economic solutions will not work in the 21st century economy. Governments need to recognize that the old economy is now behind us. And we can no longer afford to support industries that will be redundant in the next decade. This will be even less effective in creating sustainable jobs nor make Canada more competitive. We need to move away from being a service based economy and instead lead in a technology based economy. A big goal indeed! But it lacks boldness!!
Let’s be clear “Technology Is Our New Economy.” Throwing more money at the old economy is simply not a good idea. Sustaining what’s changing so fast makes no sense. Many of these policies are dated and only helps those with vested interests in dated industries. We need a bold plan that does not displace people from jobs and aids struggling businesses. However, a bold plan must first improve the confidence of the consumer. Second it must have a path to the future. As a result the first goal, must prove that it is safe to go about your normal routines again. This supports the second goal. Any advocates who are saying this will happen on its own, are wrong missing the bigger picture. They are not “listening, they have learned nothing and will be in effective as leaders.”
Confidence is needed
Without confidence, e-commerce, convenience shopping and staying out from the public will continue to accelerate. Working from home, less commutes, and the impact on central business districts will continue. Even if its just 15-20% of the population that sits it out, it is enough to dramatically change our paradigm. We need consumer confidence, for that we must reimagine the economy, business, work and everything associated with it.
We need a bold plan to manage through this change. And like planning to manage through the pandemic we turned to scientists and medical experts. To reimagine the economy, business and work we will need visionaries, forward thinking economists and advanced technology industrialists to reshape our education systems, develop adults and improve our ability to compete globally. Because, the tried and proven is tired and weak.
If we don’t reimagine everything, we will continue to flounder with 20th century solutions, which don’t work. We will not be in a position to compete not as we have in the past. We risk always repeating our slow progress towards growth and our responses to threats, whether they are health, economic and social ones. And for obvious geo-political reasons, democracies cannot afford that kind of thinking and behaviour anymore. Reimagining the economy, business and work is just the beginning. We need to reimagine everything; including society, education, the environment, overall health care and our own individual contributions. If we are not bold, we will miss the greatest opportunity Canada has to become a more powerful nation. And include all Canadians not just the privileged few. You are entitled not to agree with me. But I am willing to state without a bold perspective we change nothing.
George Minakakis is the CEO of Inception Retail Group and author of Last Retailer Standing and The Great Transition
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