Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. And then I remembered that I was late with this latest editorial offering. Where would I find inspiration? The good news was that I was going to visit with Sir Paul McCartney and 50,000 of his closest friends at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
Imagine going to see a 75-year old rock star. I had images of over-the-hill and out-of-tune musicians singing golden oldies to an even older and more out-of-touch audience for about an hour. Boy, was I wrong! The audience was a great cross-section of all ages looking to relive old memories and make new ones. McCartney could have taken the easy way out and sang a few songs from his heyday and called it a night. He did nothing of the kind. He dazzled us with his pre-Beatles inspirations, Beatles classics, Wings hits, and brand-new material for more than three hours without a single break. As I was listening to “Blackbird” (singing in the dead of night), I looked around and smiled at the crowd and the stage as I found true reflections of what is happening in retail and in life.
When I’m 64 Some of you may remember the metal box on your front porch where the milkman would deliver milk, eggs, and juice in the morning. How about the high school kid who delivered pizzas to your door? Or do you remember “the man who wears the star”? You know, the gas-station attendant who would come out to your car, fi ll the tank, check the oil and wash your windshield? Back then, Beatles songs were new, Frank Lloyd Wright was changing the way we saw architecture and Sears was the place to go for just about anything. Today, the primary diff erence is technology and how it aff ects us. Our greatest challenge is how we embrace technology. Those who do will succeed, while those who don’t will go the way of their neighborhood Blockbuster store. But I also noticed that much of the progress disruption has brought to the c-store industry is cyclical. The milkman has been replaced by delivery systems from just about every grocery chain. With the help of Uber Eats, DoorDash, Caviar, and so many others, the pizza man is new and improved and his offering has been infinitely expanded. Fried chicken? Fast food? Sushi? We can get it all delivered right to our door. As Sears continues its agonizing downward spiral, it has been replaced by Amazon, Walmart and others as the single sources for just about everything. When you strip it all down to its simplest form, I believe we are not that diff erent from the previous generations.
Please, Please Me What do consumers really want? At the core, people want to be treated well, offered high-quality products at a fair price and to be given good service to make their experience a pleasant one. I think people look back to simpler times and in many ways want to relive those times. How does that affect the future of our industry? The new trends of delivery, full-service and high-quality food offerings, beautiful facilities, and expanded selection is not new at all. It is really looking backward to what our deepest desires are and fulfilling them. The difference is that technology and competition have changed the landscape. Technology is a tool that we can use or ignore. In the past weeks, every customer I have spent time with has asked the same question in one form or another: “What’s new?” Upon further reflection, maybe my answer should have been “Not much.” The real question is: How are you using the latest technologies to improve the way you take care of your customers? As difficult as it may be, we have to continue to reinvent ourselves with a clear understanding of the underlying desires of our customers. Money can’t buy me, love, as we learned from The Beatles. But it can buy me a great dinner delivered to the house for my wife, Cathy, and me, where we can tell Google to play some Beatles songs and then just let it be.