Are you a fan of 'Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares'?

He's the famous TV celebrity Chef who, apart from building his own branded successful chain of restaurants and, depending on your point of view makes for great car crash TV viewing. 

The format for the show is based on the same premise - he focuses on restaurants that have fallen on hard times and face imminent closure in his hit TV show 'Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares'. He has a fairly straightforward repeatable process that manages to help struggling and mainly 'stubborn' restaurant owners to revive, and at times save terminal business scenarios. 

He always visits the local competition, he always gets honest authentic feedback from employees and customers alike, and he always has a good bust up with the stubborn owner who still wants to do what they've always been doing despite all the commercial evidence saying a big loud 'NO'.

In essence he gets them to acknowledge that 'what was' is no more, similar to several retailers we continue to see going through their own 'retail nightmare'.

So, what can today's retailers who themselves were the headline grabbers during the 20th Century and seem to have lost their mojo in the 21st Century going through their own version of a 'retail nightmare' learn from his approach and process?

His formula doesn't include any single silver bullet but it does harp back to some basic business realities that seem to be lacking in several retail companies today.  

Don't know about you, I've been around in multi-channel retailing for more years than even I care to remember but a few of the key things I used to do, and others like me was to;

  1. Walk the town - get to know the buzz, are there any changes affecting or impacting footfall to our store. If I'm looking to open a new outlet get a 'feel' for the Town/City.
  2. Visit our competitors - take a look (and a few notes) at the competition, see what's on offer and if they were doing anything different that would make customers shop with them and not my stores.
  3. Check the stock holding and range - do we have all the stock on the sales floor or is some of it still sat in the stockroom. Is it laid out so customers can move around and find the product easy enough.

I would do all the above on a very regular basis and would expect my various management teams to do the same, retail is detail as we say in the trade. 

I don't know about you but at times I get the impression that those sat in today's retail ivory towers have forgotten some of those basics. I really do wonder how many of the leadership team actually 'shop' where their customers 'shop'.

What I mean by this is how often do they go into a town to visit not just their own store as a normal consumer, how often do they shop their own website, let alone a competitors. 

What do they do to 'experience' things that can help inform them of changes in consumer, what does this behaviour tell them?.

With take up of social media hitting circa 3.8bn people on one social platform or other the opportunity for brands and retailers to perform a similar exercise in the digital world is just as applicable to how 'Gordon' and retailers of yesterday look to identify 'Why' customers are no longer choosing to shop with them in preference to a competitor. 

If you use social platforms for something other than to talk about you, by which I mean your constant digital advertising intrusions and start to look at it for a more strategic approach you might just get back to understanding the 'why' you're not as hot as you once were. 

The smart retailers of the 21st century use this free to access, free to use medium to help inform, educate, engage and above all 'listen' to what people are saying the chances are you can identify the gaps in your 'Why'