Question: Why is specialty retailing like Major League Baseball? (And, why is online shopping a lot like Spring Training?)
- Much like shopping at Amazon, eBay, etcetera, Spring Training games offer lots of selection! Each team's Spring Training rosters number 60 to 70 players! Talk about an "endless aisle"...
- With that "breadth of selection" comes variation in quality. Some are young "prospects"; others are players attempting comebacks; still others are veterans trying to hang. Plus, there are the big-name free agents establishing themselves with a new team.
- Just like online shopping, Spring Training offers every imaginable price point (that is, total team payroll, as well as individual player's contracts.) From prospects to free agents, there is much variation.
- And, while the scouting reports from the pros aren't available, there is no lack of "reviews": newspaper columns, TV reports, blog posts, tweets, etcetera about the relative merits of each player. Opinionated? Yes! Informed? Maybe.
But then, the "regular season" approaches. Rosters must be trimmed to 25 players on each team. As they say, "It ain't slow pitch!"
That "editing" of the assortments - cutting the roster to the best 25 players - is why specialty retailing is like the Major Leagues. Retailing isn't slow pitch either!
The competitive advantage of specialty retailers is much like that of the baseball manager: wisely editing for the most success and the best fan appeal.
- Specialty retailers decide every day which merchandise "makes the team", and of that, which is in the starting lineup.
- Specialty retailers are dispassionate about trying new merchandise, as well as taking markdowns on under-performing merchandise. (Just like baseball managers send players back to the minor leagues, or trade them, or cut them from the team.)
- And yes, just like a baseball manager, a retailer's livelihood depends on how good a job of "editing" has been done, and how it performs.
When it comes down to it, the toughest decision in retailing is what merchandise to NOT carry. (Especially when the vendors want you to carry everything!) And baseball managers risk their jobs with their decisions of which players to not have on the team.
See, good specialty retailing IS the Big Leagues!!