I’m just back from the Dallas show. I met with some wonderful people from the mart and they’re ready to go digital.
In general, I’m seeing that more market buildings are finally taking digital seriously. Why are they finally doing so? Because Amazon is nipping at their retailers heels? Because Zola is stealing the indie store’s registry business? No. Sadly, the main thing that brought the markets up to speed on the weather outside is: their own livelihood. Faire, a startup tech company leveraged by $100 million in venture capital (VC) money (https://news.crunchbase.com/news/wholesale-marketplace-faire-secures-100m-at-535m-valuation/)
has taken aim at the market buildings. What Amazon, Zola, and Wayfair are doing to indie stores, Faire seeks to do to market buildings. For the last seven years, I have lobbied just about every market building to pool products from their showrooms and get them online. I offered my software at no cost. They saw little need to pool products online and lay the foundation for a digital future. They insisted on keeping things just like they were.
Does this business mistake sound familiar to you? It does to me. I’m from Rochester, NY--home of Kodak cameras. Through the 20th century, Kodak grew to become a global powerhouse, helped the Allies win World War II with aerial photography, and was Rochester’s largest employer. Then it imploded. Kodak is now in shambles and teetering on existence. What happened? Kodak didn’t want to embrace digital. It wanted to sell more film. Many of the marts are ‘Kodak.' They insisted on selling ‘film.' My company and likely others came to them with solutions to go digital and they declined it. Now they are on their heels and losing customers, brands, and exhibitors.
What’s ironic about the now urgent air at the marts is that the marts watched this same 'disruption' happen to the stores. When Amazon, Zola, Guilt, Rue La La, and other venture capital-backed tech players wanted to nip at stores, the marts didn’t intervene. Some marts said their hands were tied and couldn’t do anything to stop digital from undermining their customers. Now, tech is coming for the marts themselves. Therein lies an important rule of civility: don’t do unto others what you wouldn't want done to you. Maybe if the marts had listened more to the stores when tech came for them, they’d be more prepared now.
As an example of how the marts embraced disruption at the peril of their own tenants, in the spring of this year the owner of a major mart was lobbying for Amazon to locate its new HQ in its city. The owner's name appeared on an open letter appearing in the New York Times imploring Amazon to pick its city. Mind you that Amazon is a major job killer and in particular killer of indie stores. Who are some of this mart’s main visitors? Indie stores. Dying indie stores translate into dying brand showrooms which translate into a dying mart building, right? Here’s a thought for the mart owner: don’t champion the destruction of your industry. What the owner should’ve done is oppose the HQ on the grounds that it hurts indies stores and our industry, not to mention that it cheats our communities out of millions in taxes--taxes that pay our nurses, our police officers, and our social workers.
Let’s work together to help the marts avoid Kodak's fate. I know marts love to promote cocktail parties, but what we really need to promote is our due diligence on going digital. Otherwise, we’re putting thousands of lives at stake. Thankfully, the Dallas Market Center has some smart leaders and they’re now moving in the right direction.
Let’s help the marts crowd source products on a socially responsible digital platform. Bridge has spent the last 10 years building the foundation for this platform. Our platform already supports thousands of businesses, offers more than one hundred thousand products, and processes millions of dollars in transactions. While other solutions want to disrupt our industry and will result in losers, our platform helps marts, reps, brands, and stores in a manner that is truly ‘fair’ for all parties.