Gartner: Apple is not a retailer

Today I saw yet another industry journal touting Apple as one of the “top 5 retailers that matter” with regard to maximising multichannel strategy.

Respectfully I suggest that Apple is not a retailer.

Apple is a technology company with a carefully developed brand image and products with high demand. I grant you that they have created stores that enhance their brand image and fit the lifestyle of their core consumers. They have also been very creative in using new technologies in the sales process.

Call me crazy but success of their stores is not exactly a surprise. What retailer wouldn’t kill for that kind of a product driven demand?

Looking 5 years down the road, should Apple falter in product development, what odds would you lay on comp store sales growth? I see an incredibly fast-shrinking retail footprint if and when their product strategy fails to deliver.

How many conversations have occurred in retailer strategy meetings that started with “Apple does X why can’t we just do that?” Hopefully, after the debacle of JC Penney, this activity has slowed. When I see lists like this I continue to be concerned.

Obviously as a retail operational arm of Apple, the stores have pioneered many possible approaches that retailers can learn from, but the fundamental difference between traditional retailers and Apple makes wholesale copying undesirable. It’s easy to create a list of major retailers and claim they are the ones to watch, but is that really helpful?

While Amazon, Apple, Macy’s, Target and Walmart are extensively reported I say it’s time for retailers to stop copying others.

Start with your customer’s wants, needs and desires, compare those with your core capabilities, and develop a customer led innovation strategy that will maximise your value as a multichannel retailer. Then you can be on a list of the ones to follow.

By Robert Hetu – Research Director, Gartner

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