It’ll take more than free shipping to keep customers
I arrive at The Press Club on Flinders Street a little early. It’s booked solid. Another noisy night. Kara leads me to one of the quieter tables around the corner. Water will be fine, thank you.
Remarkable to think this was once the headquarters of the mighty Herald and Weekly Times. Newsroom into luxury apartments, print shop into cellar bar, foyer into modern Greek restaurant. Marvelous what you can do with some Kalamata olives and Feta drizzled with a hit television series and a celebrity chef.
Bernie Brookes makes his way to my table. The chief of Myer Holdings is all smiles. Always is. The perils of more than 30 years in retail. The last few herding shareholders. The shoulders of his dark suit are a little stooped.
You’re looking well.
The self confidence shines through as he orders a beer and takes a seat.
I figure I’ll just come right out and say it.
Free shipping? You’re kidding right.
It’s a logical move. We have to offer our customers an online advantage. We want to boost our online turnover.
I’m sure you do.
We do about $5 million a year online. The plan is to increase that closer to $50 million a year very quickly.
Don’t hold your breath, Bernie.
This is something we have been planning for a while now. Obviously free shipping comes at a cost, but we have run the numbers and we believe the model works.
Bernie, how does it even begin to serve the customer?
Our people tell us that revenue can be expected to rise between five and tenfold when an online retailer offers its customers free shipping.
Well, I wouldn’t believe everything DTDigital tell you.
Our waiter returns with a beer and the menus. Bernie orders first. I ask for the salmon to be grilled with steamed spinach and lemon, no salt.
Bernie, putting a catalogue of products online is not the answer.
Bernie is not so sure.
Our exclusive offer will cover up to 4000 products including the latest in new summer fashion, for him and her, youth fashion, homewares and electrical.
I have to smile. Once a retailer always a retailer.
Online isn’t just another channel. It’s a whole new medium, a whole new media. It’s about connection and links. It’s not about an endless slew of products waiting to be marked down twice a year.
His smile drops.
I want to tell him that he is simply migrating his problems from the real world into the virtual world. That offering free shipping is like not charging shoppers entry into a department store. I want to tell him the truth.
Myer has lost its way. It doesn’t know what it stands for. It’s not even a department store anymore. Its like an open plan shopping mall. Which makes it sound more exciting than it is.
His meal arrives. Beautifully served wild venison with beetroot from the South Australian Flinders Ranges and horiatiki. My salmon is perfect.
If I don’t know why I should go into a Myer store, why will I go into a Myer website?
Well, obviously it is a question of choice.
People don’t need any more choice, Bernie. When the first Myer store opened its doors in Bendigo forty-eight million years ago, when there was next to no choice, that was a good idea. But now we’re drowning in choice.
Choice is a good thing.
Have you been online lately. There’s so much choice we need somebody to save us. That somebody could be you.
Maybe if I called him Bernard he’d pay for attention.
You’re a leader, you’re supposed to lead. Your supposed to inspire customers and staff to go to a place they’ve never been before. A better place than where they are now.
The waiter appears with dessert menus.
So, what are you going to choose?
“MY DINNER WITH BERNIE” is a slice of fiction. Stefano Boscutti is a writer, director and creative director. When not dining with chief executives, he’s writing stories about men who let ambition get the better of them. You can see more of his work at boscutti.com and marvel at the free shipping.
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