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The Future Hates Mediocrity

Posted June 13, 2009
Posted in Branding, Store Experience

I was reminded recently of a really good book I read several years ago called Going Shopping by Ann Satterthwaite, a city planner from Washington D.C. It’s an historical account of shopping formats through the ages- an archaeological dig, so to speak, into the evolution of retail. mediocre2

It’s fascinating to see how and why certain forms of retailing moved in and out of consumer preference over the centuries. What`s really worth noting though, is that every form of retail that has ever existed exists today, to some degree.

We still have some flea markets and bazaars in the world. The downtown department store, although not without challenges, soldiers on. The suburban mall concept continues today and is morphing into some unique and interesting lifestyle formats. Small, independent shops continue to account for a significant percentage of the total store count and of course e-commerce is thriving. So despite centuries of change and evolution, not a single form of retail trade has become extinct.

What is clear however is that only the strongest have survived and those that have managed to withstand the test of time have had one thing in common – they’ve been remarkable. Not necessarily remarkable at everything but definitely remarkable at something.

For Le Bon Marche in Paris, it may be the sheer beauty of the store design that set them apart. At Ritz-Carlton hotels, legendary service may be the differentiator. For the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul it might be its hyper-experiential environment and for the St. Lawrence market in Toronto, it could be the eclectic mix of people and products.

Voltaire once said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good” and I’ve known some retail executives that have openly subscribed to this idea. They’ve suggested that in the pursuit of perfection we can impede progress towards an outcome that is sufficiently good. I don’t agree. I would argue that good is in fact, the enemy of survival. What’s notable about good?  Good things happen to us every day and the following week we can’t recall one of them. Every day good businesses open and good businesses close. In some cases we don’t even notice that they’re gone. The truth is, good is mediocre and the future hates mediocrity.

Try this… instead of setting out to be good at a lot of things, put your mind to being remarkable at something. The future likes remarkable.


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