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Canadian Tire president says retailers need to create original ideas

June 03, 2014 - 11:47 AM

TORONTO - The president of Canadian Tire says the death of traditional retail stores is greatly exaggerated.

In fact, Michael Medline is placing bets he will be able to convince customers that shopping in stores is better than going online for the cheapest deals.

"We're putting our money where our mouth is," Medline said in a retail conference speech on Tuesday.

"But, we need to be good at both. We have to put huge resources, time and money behind e-commerce and the new world."

After years of a minimal digital presence, Canadian Tire began to wade into the world of online shopping in a bigger way earlier this year.

While it won't ship mufflers and light fixtures to your home, the company does let you shop for items online before swinging by the nearest store to pick them up.

It's a step in the right direction, Medline said, though he says Canadian Tire is still a year and a half away from the presence it needs to have in e-commerce, where companies like Amazon.com are capturing a growing share of the market.

"We're facing these goliath-like retailers out there," he said in an interview at the Store 2014 retail conference, held by the Retail Council of Canada.

"We have to be quick on our feet and we have to adapt and change."

If the future of the retail industry looks anything like the image crafted by Medline, Canadians will shop at a high-tech variation of the traditional "ma and pa" store.

He described a vision of retail where community becomes a priority and the local store carries items that better suit the demands of the neighbourhood.

"We have to be better in the community," he said.

"We have dealers ... who can stock their stores in a way that works for the community."

He said stores that respond to local demands, and also employ a more knowledgeable staff, will help ensure that customers walk out with purchases in their hands.

Medline called on other Canadian retailers to become more nimble to survive the onslaught of competition.

That's where Canadian companies often fall short, characteristically averse to taking risks and rarely the first to shell out extra dough to invest in the future.

Meline said the industry needs to change that mind set, and fast, as U.S. retailers swoop in to take a larger chunk of the market.

"I see companies fighting where the world is going, and you're know they're not going to be successful by fighting it," he said.

"If you go where the customer wants to go, you'll probably be all right."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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