First let me tell you that I know nothing about retail. And then let me tell you that I used to be a customer of Sharper Image, but haven’t been there in years.
That says it all about change, and about the way technology has come to pervade modern life. I know a lot about change. This week my foster kid Josh had his entire face reconstructed because he was beaten by a robber with a baseball bat. He has metal plates inserted in his eye sockets, and every bone in his face has been moved around. Yet when I saw him in the hospital after the surgery, he didn’t even have a visible incision. The surgeon went in through his lip and up through his nose using imaging, robotics, lasers, and microsurgical techniques. Five years ago, that surgery probably didn’t exist. He will not even have a scar.
Today it was announced that Sharper Image has filed Chapter 11 reorganization, and that it would close a bunch of stores.
Of course it will. Sharper Image is failing like Hillary Clinton is failing. Failing to keep up with the pace of change. By definition, nothing can be “progressive” or “fashion forward” forever if it doesn’t change its model or its views. Everyone who wants an Ionic Breeze has one. And everyone knows we need health insurance for our citizens. It’s no longer an inspiring subject for a speech.
When everyone on the planet didn’t have a cell phone, Sharper Image was the place to go. But once cell phones bcame availalbe on the streets of Delhi and in the villages of Africa, who would go to Sharper Image to buy a gadget? Perceiving this, Sharper Image began inventing gadgets — most of them of the Ionic Breeze variety. The last thing I bought in Sharper Image was a negative ion brush for my dog. I thought it was clever at the time, but I’ve passed on to a new trend: outsourcing the grooming of my dog.
I think you know where I’m going with this. When your platform is futuristic and Progressive, the future eventually catches up with you and you find yourself in the mainstream and then gradually falling behind. This morning, I feel what way about Hillary Clinton. I feel the same way about Sharper Image.
An analyst once told me that every three years, there’s a change in the way kids respond to technology. This generation of kids is native to social media the way Gen X is native to email. Do you realize how fast the pace of change has become? In five years, we won’t have incandescent light bulbs anymore. We may not even know yet what else we won’t have.
This is not easy to fathom, or to adjust to. Change has displaced Sharper Image and Hillary Clinton — two staples o the 90s. In retail and in politics, there are still people who don’t understand the breakneck pace of change the way technology companies have to.
In technology, people cannibalize their own businesses and products or die. In retail, that doesn’t often happen. In politics, it NEVER happens, although perhaps at this moment in history, it should. If what you think you are selling is the future, as Sharper Image and Hillary both think, you should probably be doing more study of innovation theory.