Let’s be clear. Sooner or later, either through choice, customer sentiment, or legislation, we will all be selling less things. Certainly as ‘retailers as a whole’ and, as individual businesses.

This will be the ‘Journey of a lifetime’ for a retail industry built on volume growth, and a distinct change of direction for the journeys of many existing retailers.

Critically, it’s success will be determined by the journey of the product, and by the journey of the customer.

Making sales, making profit for any retail business, will depend conclusively and emphatically on how well and high tightly the journeys of their products and their customers are entwined with their own!

These journeys are for life, in every sense.

Retail businesses will need to make more money from the lifetimes of their products. The retailer will need to have complete accountability and responsibility for a product from its origins as the constituents of materials, through the B&M process, the selling process, and then for its lifetime as a possession of one or more customers.

Only with this level of accountability will a retailer be able to invest in every customer relationship on a products journey. To make profit from longevity.

Only with this level of responsibility will a retailer be able to invest in every product relationship on a customer’s journey. To make profit from loyalty.

We will sell less new things, but we will sell, re-sell, rent, re-invent, repair, and recycle each new thing many more times.

The profit is cumulative. The profit is earned from longevity & loyalty.

This is a lesson in patience. A difficult lesson for an industry that has grown fat on being fast and impatient.

For all the talk of AI, and the metaverse, the most important technology of our age will be unseen by the customer. It will be that which allows the retailer to follow and link the journeys of its products and the journeys of its customers for life.

RFID has already taken significant strides and for Zara at least, it turned the potential product graveyards of closed shops during COVID lockdowns into micro-distribution centres, armed with the knowledge of where every product was.

However, this is only a step on the journey. Businesses have been restricted by the physical label, and to the journey from factories and to shops and then to consumers for after sales services.

This post was partly stimulated by learning of Circlolink’s RFID THREADS. Potentially a way for retailers to be wholly accountable and responsible for what they produce, from the origin of materials to the product, to the customer, then to a new product, to the same customer, or a new customer…and so on.

Because the thread is part of the fabric, the material itself. The material is the data. It tells the story of the material’s origins, and then adds to that story at every step of it’s journey, whatever that might be.

This is truly significant, because this is when retailers realise that profit comes from materials, and not from products. Profit is literally, materialised.

This is a paradigm shift.

This is potentially the ‘Journey of a Lifetime.’ Literally ‘Life hanging by a THREAD!’