Retail Crisis or Evolution: Specialist vs. Generalist

Specialist Retail

Modern Retail are proud to share the ‘Retail Crisis or Retail Evolution’ series, by Naeem Arif, Vice Chair of the Midlands Retail Forum. Naeem shares the ways in which successful high street retailers are adapting to overcome new challenges and thrive, proving the importance of evolution in retail.

To read from the start of the series, click here.

Back in the day, the USP for Toys R Us was that it had “everything all under one roof”, including toys, cake and decorations. For kids, it was toy heaven. For parents, it was hard work. 

Since they opened their doors, there quickly became many other options for people to buy toys from. Just having a wide selection of toys was no longer a USP for them, with Argos and many supermarkets all offering a multitude of toys under a single roof. There was no longer anything special about them. 30 years ago, they may have been the single go-to place to get toys for kids, but this was never going to last.

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Toys R Us gave us aisles of toys

Becoming a specialist and becoming known for a specific, remarkable reason should have been a priority for Toys R Us. Having focused on being a generalist when the competition offered the same selection, there became no way for them to stand out. Being a specialist is not wrong, but what you need to be able to do is evolve as times change.

If you think that everyone can sell the same products, then what more do you offer than the product itself? When I went to my local Toys R Us 6 years ago, it felt like I was still in 1986, with the decor and setup almost unchanged from when I was a child.

The recent collapse of the Jamie Oliver chain is a similar story, where the identity of his food appeared to be a little lost following an aggressive expansion. Perhaps he should have stuck to what he was well known for, rather than trying to become a large chain of restaurants.

This highlights the importance of having a USP and adapting to ensure you have an experience which stands out from other retailers on the high street.