Push Harder, Act Sooner

This article was published in the September 2016 issue of STORES Magazine.

Jeremy Gutsche describes himself as a new breed of trend spotter. The CEO and founder of TrendHunter.com, the world’s largest and most popular trend community, and author of two books — the most recent being “Better and Faster” — Gutsche is a highly sought-after speaker. I had the chance to hear his thoughts on exploiting chaos, finding overlooked opportunities and creating a culture of innovation at the NRFtech event held last month. In a word — wow.

With a sometimes breathless pace and boundless energy, Gutsche guided attendees through numerous examples of individuals and companies that recognized patterns and clues that led to new potential — along with those who missed opportunities, choosing instead to protect their core business. He shared a very personal story about his father — a man whose business savvy began in grade school and endured for decades, and provided new understanding on the implausible yet undeniable success of Red Bull.

His presentation was peppered with advice on how retailers can overcome the traps that prevent high performance, acknowledging the incredible pace of change retail is facing and how overwhelming it can be to pick a new opportunity given the state of overload most feel.

“The act of getting inspired has become distracting,” Gutsche conceded, but there are patterns and clues pointing retailers to their next breakthrough. The problem: Too often, companies revert back to what worked last year. “Almost all innovation happens by making connections between fields that other people don’t realize,” he said, emboldening listeners to find success in overlooked opportunities.

Using wit to drive home a message, he told retailers that “competitors are lazier than you think.” Everyone wants to get better and faster, but most don’t want to put in the effort, he said — urging attendees to push harder, act sooner and never give up.

Gutsche outlined three traps that block retailers from adapting in a fast-moving world: complacency, repetitiveness and being overly protective of egos. “Businesses become complacent with success, losing the hunger they had when times were tough … . They become repetitive … ultimately going back to what worked in the past.”

He challenged retailers to fight complacency by being insatiable (always looking for a new idea), curious and willing to destroy the egos that cling to old ideas. “You can look at what your competitors are doing and try to emulate them, or you can try to understand how patterns of chaos and opportunity work and figure out your next step.”

Gutsche never mentioned Amazon, but having studied the many ways that Amazon has disrupted retail, I was reminded of the number of times outsiders considered Jeff Bezos imprudent, and his processes unsustainable. Connecting ideas from different industries, elevating the pace of change and chasing concepts that were previously overlooked by others are all hallmarks of Bezos’ management style. While others ‘explore the possibilities’ of any number of ideas, Bezos and company are already in beta-testing mode — ready to strike before the competition is even close.

Odds are Bezos has read Gutsche’s books. Maybe that’s a hint.

Full coverage of NRFtech will be available in STORES’ October issue.