Catch Miriam Simon on the #PirateBroadcast™ - russjohns

Catch Miriam Simon on the #PirateBroadcast™

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Introduction: [00:00:00] Welcome to the #PirateBroadcast™, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Where you can expand your connections, your community, #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let’s get this party started.

Russ Johns: [00:00:10] And it's a beautiful day and we're here.  Have you ever walked into a retail establishment and you had some sort of a question, some sort of idea about retail or anything about retail? Because we have, Miriam, she's a pirate now. Miriam, how are you doing?

Miriam Simon: [00:00:28] I feel like I should be saying some corny arrrgggh.

Russ Johns: [00:00:33] Not required.

Miriam Simon: [00:00:36] I'm in the beautiful country of Ireland. So it's not quite as sunny here.

Russ Johns: [00:00:43] I'll send you some sunshine from Arizona.

Miriam Simon: [00:00:46] Please do, please do.

Russ Johns: [00:00:49] You know it's interesting how we have evolved over the last year. And retail has really taken a major hit, impact, transition, transformation, whatever you want to say. And I know that you've been amazing at helping some of these business owners build strategy. And you've been at the top in most retail chains that we would probably recognize in the European market that are probably unfamiliar to me. However, for those that haven't met you, or don't know who you are, give us a snapshot of who you're helping right now and how you're helping them.

Miriam Simon: [00:01:25] Wow. My background is hardcore retail, like you said. So when the pandemic hit, I got sucked straight back into retail very quickly. I have several streams to my business. So  I work with retail business owners. So CEOs and Board level of chains on growth strategy and how to grow their business. So I work with bigger retailers in that space.  But actually since the pandemic hit, I now work with smaller retailers, both in groups and one-to-one so I have a group called the retail powerhouse, which is where if you have a mom and pop store or you have one or two or three, and you're not a millionaire retailer, they'll get access to really high level consultancy. And we do a weekly live. It's all very enclosed and we bring in specialists. So for example, we had somebody came in and taught everybody how to do Tik Toks and how to commercialize Tik Tok to help drive their business digitally. And we've brought in people to show them  visual tricks and how to look after their windows. And then also they have access to me, but in a group format, it's actually quite manageable. And then I do a lot of retail webinars for groups of retailers all over Ireland and the UK where I might have 150 retailers from a county and we're talking to them about how to be really nimble and how to trade and actually for a lot of the last 14 months. That was about how to trade from behind closed doors. So you have stay in business and we've had some amazing success. I have stories of retailers that despite being closed, double their turnover last year, because a little bit of focus goes a long way.

Russ Johns: [00:03:01] It's amazing to see how many business owners have really discovered new opportunities. And like we were talking before the show started, home delivery has really evolved in time. It's really one of those things that a lot of business owners have had to adopt. Some have adopted it very well. And some are still evolving it through that process.

Miriam Simon: [00:03:24] There's a few trends around that. So as we reopen and I think we're a little bit behind you, we've only been reopened about 10 days for  non-essential retail. I think that's the correct terminology. So for non-essential retail only opened on the 17th of May, but there's a couple of trends that are emerging and they're emerging globally so they'll impact no matter where you live. So first of all, the whole green delivery piece. So for example, I live in a town in Ireland called Drogheda and in Drogheda, there is now a business called Pedal Power. Pedal power is basically a chap and his wife and his relatives with electric bikes. So it means that anything that you buy locally in the town, you can have delivered  in under an hour. So you can go online, buy locally and have it delivered online. So we're going to see more of this green fast and efficient and green delivery and localization is going to be a major trend in retail. I probably talk about that in a few minutes but also it's not all just about delivery. So I know a lot of retailers are a little bit uncomfortable, so what we are seeing is lots of, and more mom and pop stores and smaller retailers and opting for click and collect or buy online pickup in store. And that's going to be a trend that will outlive the pandemic. SoI think that's going to be a really key trend. That'll be around for quite some time. There's a few things that have happened in the pandemic that obviously we've all changed our own behaviors of how we shop, but there's a few trends that I think will stay for the long-term even as we come out of this.

Russ Johns: [00:04:58] What do you see as being, delivery is going to be one, online shopping is going to be another, the systems and solutions that business owners have access to now are just really they're emerging and evolving and Amazon leading the trend and some of those, but you have a lot of different online stores that business owners can actually do drop ship. 

Miriam Simon: [00:05:22] Absolutely. There's a few really massive trends for retail that I think are going to be here for the medium term.  So one of them is this whole piece around localization. So we are seeing this real, it is going to be about nearer to home. It's going to be about less of a product journey, so to speak. And the sustainability piece is going to lean into that as well. So the commuter, the amount of people that were commuting is going to be far reduced for going forward. So of everybody that stopped commuting, maybe a third of that footfall will go back to commuting. So you're going to see a lot more localization. You're gonna see a lot more of the big retailers looking for more urban space, with smaller stores and bigger stock rooms. But actually also getting digital has never been more affordable. So it's a bit of a scary thing if you're a traditional retailer and you've never done but it's never been more affordable. And I have to say an Ireland I was quite proud of us as a little country. The Irish government made, what they did to support retail, when the sugar honey iced tea hit the farm last year, and everybody was told go home and don't come out.

Russ Johns: [00:06:29] Lock your doors and stay home.

Miriam Simon: [00:06:31] So when that happened what happened was the Irish government actually really leaned into some grants that they were already offering on a low key basis and blew them up. So if you were a small business and a small retailer, the Irish government said we'll get you online, spend this time and get yourself put online and we'll pay for it. We'll give you five grand and we'll pay for your website or app or your website on some digital marketing. And if you were a big retailer, if you've employed more than 10 people, you could have claimed up to 40 grand for a company to come in and build your website. So there was a massive drive last year, last spring onwards to get as many retailers in Ireland, digital as possible. And that's been really effective. We've not had quite as much carnage as the likes of the UK from that respect, possibly because of that, I think in the UK 18,000 stores closed last year and they're expecting the same amount this year, but in Ireland, we were actually a little bit more protected than you would imagine, because we did do that. Let's get digital and I think Ireland, believe it or not, is the biggest country in the world for AI development at the moment. So per capita? Yes. Yeah. And definitely the biggest in Europe. So the amount of what happened was basically we were all told, go home, close the doors and don't come out. So what happened was there are a lot of clever people were told to go home and close the doors and not come out.

Russ Johns: [00:07:55] They started working.w

Miriam Simon: [00:07:56] Yes, they did. So we saw about nearly a decade of innovation happened in a year, which is what happened during the Spanish flu as well, if you remember. So we're just waiting for the roaring twenties now.

Russ Johns: [00:08:09] Let's wait for the, let's not wait, let's start it now.

Miriam Simon: [00:08:13] It's just, we're just ready. So localization is going to be a really big thing, the whole digitalization piece, but the sustainability piece had started before the pandemic. There had been this move towards sustainability and a circular economy. And that got paused because to be honest, we were all in a crisis. So we all just started using what we needed with masks and everything, but that's coming at us like a steam, train that whole carbon footprint piece. And that's going to be really the next really big thing. And we're going to see new retail models emerge as a result of that. You probably didn't realize I taught this much, but then  the other thing that really emerged, and this is it's this dynamic shift that the small guys and retail suddenly had all of the power because the big guys couldn't change quickly because if they want to make any changes, it's slow and it's really expensive and takes them ages to get everybody on board. Whereas the small guy, the guy who has just an e-commerce business or the guy who only has one store or two stores, certainly they can move quickly and they can take risks and it's not expensive and they could just make sugar honey iced tea happen. They can just make things happen. So suddenly there's this dynamic shift and the smaller guy, the big sort of Demi gods, like Amazon, you can't compete with them. We're all going to be living in an Amazon world. Let's be honest. But it's the middle tier of retailers, it's those big chains that have 200 stores that have borne the brunt of this. The small guys actually, you've never had as much power as you have now, if you only realize it,

Russ Johns: [00:09:46] And like I was mentioning, Marcia Reece jumped in and with her Staywell copper and Howard Kaufman with his oral mouth care. These individuals, and what I see in my  sitting back is that a lot of people are starting their own business. A lot of people are thinking about how they can actually do a side hustle or a small business. And because the delivery systems are in place, the ability to get online is in place, the audience and the communities are in place. And I love the idea of going back to this smaller, almost like a teaching environment where people are helping each other, like you have a community like the powerhouse community. People are getting together in these communities and helping each other grow and provide feedback and information and we're all in a place where we can actually choose how we want to live, how we want to purchase, how we want to deliver our goods. And I think it's emerging in this arena and it goes back to this idea of I love walking cities. I love the ability to just go down to the market. I used to live in Seattle, two blocks from the market and go down there and buy some food and, groceries or whatever, and just walk home and in the US there's a lot of driving cities.

Miriam Simon: [00:11:05] I think you're going to see, it's going to shift back.  It's going to become  and there's a lot of work happening across Europe for this whole 30 minutes, everything should be accessible within a 30 minute walk. So localization is calming. It's already happening. So for example, and I'm using Ireland as an example because it's easy for me, cause that's where I'm sat right now. But in Ireland, the government has a strategy to... they are putting a digital hub into every town. So if you're a millennial who's using an ironing board as a desk in your parents' house, because property is dear here, and and you don't want to spend an hour and a half driving to get into the Dublin to get to work, there will be a digital hub that you can just walk to and work close to home, but still have that semblance of connection with other people. And so there seems to be some really good future focused strategies emerging, but the future is that 10 minute to 30 minute walking city, that we're going to have to repurpose cities because they're never going to be as intense as they were before the pandemic. I don't believe they will.

Russ Johns: [00:12:08] Have you seen any trends in, and I don't know, locally or in Europe, the super big malls, in the us? I'm just thinking from property owners perspective, how they're going to repurpose some of these retail spaces that are not necessarily doing exactly what they had planned on doing 20 years ago.

Miriam Simon: [00:12:27] Yeah,  we don't have too many of the super big ones here. What we've seen as we've started to reopen here is the big shopping centers that are on the main networking roads have done quite well. And the local towns are doing very well. And it's the city centers that have been the most destroyed. I think the malls have a little bit longer to go because we're really at the beginning of that whole carbon footprint thing, but it's coming really quickly. So realistically, I sound like an environmentalist here and I'm actually not, I'm just  watching what's coming at us, and the likelihood is that by the end of this decade, the likelihood is we will all be taxed on our personal carbon footprint and that's going to massively impact how much people drive. And the way that people drive, the way that people travel. And I think we're going to see a lot of those miles. It's similar to the city center piece where it's going to have to be a combination of community. So I think we're going to go back. This actually could be a very good thing for humanity that we're going to go back to more community-based living. And that's not a bad thing.

Russ Johns: [00:13:32] I don't think it's a bad thing at all. Yeah. It's like Jimmy jam says, I'd rather be a speed boat versus a cruise ship. Course correction is much, much faster.

Miriam Simon: [00:13:44] And that's an analogy I actually use in a lot of the talks that I get. Th this the SME retail or the small retailer is the speedboat. The, those big legacy retailers, they're like the big tankers. They just come. They can't adapt to change quickly. So yeah, if you're a small retailer, this is your moment and you've probably not had as good a moment in about 30 years. And so I'll give you, and it's not all just about getting a website by the way, although digitalization is happening really quickly. Social commerce is actually the fastest growing channel. Social commerce through social media.

Russ Johns: [00:14:16] Expand that a little bit, Miriam.

Miriam Simon: [00:14:17] So social commerce is...we saw lots of small businesses trade really well, despite being closed because they went on social media and said, hi, this is me. This is who I am. This is my business. And let me show you what I have to sell you. And you didn't need to have a website to do that. There was messenger, there was WhatsApp, there was so many different ways. There's one chap and I always use him as an example, if he's watching this, he's going to be cringing right now. And he owns an electrical store locally  to where I live. And  it was his dad's store. The business is 75 years old and he's been behind the counter for 42-43. And he's such the most gorgeous gentleman. I've never seen him not wearing a suit. He's a very lovely gentleman. And when the pandemic hit and we were all shocked cause it all happened very instantly and we were all in shock. I think a lot of people have forgotten how free fall it was at the beginning and how terrifying it was. But he wasn't really on social media and he didn't have a website, but he went out every day on Twitter and he tweeted every day. He tweeted, my doors are closed, but my phone is on. And then a picture of a product every day and what really happened and goosebumps, every time I tell the story, I get goosebumps. What happened was people felt that he was with them. Do you know what I mean? There was such authenticity to his messaging and he had a crackin' year, last year. Now say in that same month, Kevin and apologies Kevin for talking about you. Kevin, so he's on Facebook now. He's on Instagram now he's on Tik Tok. Tik Tok got 40,000 views.

Russ Johns: [00:16:01] Holy cow. And that's the beauty of where we are in the world right now. And that's what I do with this live stream. I get up. I have a little #gratitude for you. The fact that I have electricity and a house and food, and all my needs are taken care of realistically, I've been a remote worker for over a decade. I've been remote worker over the years, many times. And the reality is that we are moving into a direction that allows a lot of people to make decisions that they've never had before in the past. And somebody that can just go out on social media, build up a community, build up a following. And really it's about people working with people, buying from people.

Miriam Simon: [00:16:47] It is. Authenticity is one of the most important things. People are going to want to know who they're giving their money to in the future and authenticity is everything. And this is the superpower of the smaller business at the moment. For every one of those big businesses that had a hard time, there were a lot of those, the On Post, which is the Irish postal service, delivered 14 million parcels in December. Now we're a small country. There's less than 5 million people in Ireland. As a country, where at the size of a city somewhere else, and outside Dublin, we're pretty spread out, across the arteries. But On Post, who is our processor delivered 14 million parcels, which was a record for them. They barely coped.  14 million parcels, but 7 million of those parcels came from Irish retailers, which is amazing. That's like a massive shift here, so that means that the strategy around getting everybody digitalized was the right one. And essentially what the pandemic has done and I'm quoting a a retail futurist here, a guy called Doug Stevens. He talks about the pandemic being a bit like a wormhole. So what happened is we've all witnessed the end of the industrial age. We've just witnessed it. So we are now in the digital age, but we're right at the beginning of the digital age and it's just going to get faster. I'm a bit of a nerdy person, so I'm watch everything in a bit of a curious like this is wow, this is bananas look at what's happening. But the amount of innovation we are seeing, coming to the forefront is amazing. And people, like Kevin was a bit bored in his business before the pandemic and was a bit do I want to still be doing this? Completely re-energized. Ironically a pandemic came and it was  like a comet hitting him sideways and he had to focus and he's having a great time now. He's actually really been energized and enjoying his business.

Russ Johns: [00:18:38] I really love the idea that someone can actually... the transformation is going to be one way or the other, depending on our perspective and on our vision. And for myself, I have never been busier. I've got a lot of things, a lot of projects going on, a lot of client work and a lot of different projects that I have started up. And it's the same thing. It's like, how can we build a strategy around changing what we're doing and how we're doing it. And I think that's so important for people to understand that you can do this, be in control of your future. You set the trend to set the pace, set the position for your business and I think that's so important. And I just want to remind people, Howard Kaufman jumped in as well. I mentioned Howard Kaufman, great point on the number of decisions we all face. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Miriam Simon: [00:19:28] You're raising something really important there, Russ, around mindset. So for all those retailers I'm talking about, and I work with lots of retailers who had a cracking year, last year, despite being closed for most of it. But, a lot of it is around mindset. It doesn't change it. Change can be really hard and some people are more open to it than others for every retailer that was down there sweating and making sugar honey iced tea happen, so to speak, that there were other retailers that just closed the door and said, wake me up when it's over.  So I do think there is a piece here about mindset and being open to change. And last year was a very scary year for a lot of businesses, myself included. Like my business is a completely different business than it was a year ago.  I think I'm stronger for it. The fact that  a lot of the aspects of my business came out with need, the first few months of the pandemic was a free fall. I was just like, where can I be useful  and it really was just about seeing where you could be as useful as possible and help because that gave me something to hold on to. Because we were all in free fall for those, if you think back to March, I remember being in a coffee shop when, Tea Shook made the announcement, which was essentially to go home. And I was very lucky. I was with my best friend and we walked to our cars together and hugged and we didn't see each other for a year.  And I remember stopping at every cash point on the way home just in case we have to run for the hills. And then nobody would take your money cause money was dirty.

Russ Johns: [00:21:01] But you bring up an excellent point, though. You had to sit back, you had to reflect on what resources you had and the first place you went to was how do I add value to the world and fit into this new environment? And I think that's so key for people to pick up on and make sure they understand. How do I add value to the world?

Miriam Simon: [00:21:27] Yeah,  for me, it was I saw I had a lot of things booked, so I would do a lot of talking about return.  You would never guess I'd talk for a living, would you? I would do a lot of talking about future trends and things like that. And so I was booked to go and speak in all of these places and that just went, woof. It was gone in three days and I watched my income just disappear. So for me, it was actually it gave me great comfort  and I probably wasn't even rational at the time. It wasn't even that strategic. I was just like, feeling useful, helped me manage myself. Does that make sense?

Russ Johns: [00:22:03] Yes, absolutely.

Miriam Simon: [00:22:05] So it was work and I'm in a reasonably small... it's a big town by Irish standards, but I'm involved in the chamber of commerce there and things like that. There were a lot of people phoning me, panicking and going help, help, so it was easy for me to be useful.

Russ Johns: [00:22:21] Yes, it was easy. I want to remind people that... let me make sure that...  I got so involved in your conversation that I forgot to mention that Miriam's going to give away an e-book. Is that what you're saying?

Miriam Simon: [00:22:34] So I launched an ebook  at the end of March. And it's based on a program that we did very successfully with lots of retailers called retailing and a pandemic. So the ebook is called retailing through uncertainty. Time to thrive. And what was I going to say? So I'm happy to give a free copy.

Russ Johns: [00:22:52] So  if you're in the stream today and you're... you know, people come and go, so I apologize that I didn't put this up earlier, but type in hashtag #piratenation. And we're going to do this giveaway at the end of the show. So I know that it's an amazing conversation. I know that we could talk many hours on this topic and I just really love the idea that so many amazing things are taking place and there's a lot of opportunity out there. And I just see more opportunity as a result. Not because of anything but change. There's a lot of change going on and anytime there's change there's opportunity. So what are some other trends just to recap on some of the trends that are taking place, what are the other trends?We talked about growth, localization, green.

Miriam Simon: [00:23:41] What we're seeing, so from a media and retail point of view, from a retail point of view, what we're seeing is retail is blending with media. So we're seeing more people on Facebook saying, I watched a lady live streaming from a boutique last week on Facebook and she had a filter on her face that had given her a full beard and everybody was falling around laughing and then opening their wallet and spending lots of money. So  live streaming is the future. So we're going to see a lot more live streaming and we're going to see people getting paid to do live streaming, where they're just showing product and trying on product. But we're seeing this whole, the dynamics of the returns are changing. It used to be that you would have a website and the website was about pushing people to the store. What's going to happen is the store will be about pushing people to the website. So people will come into a store, but they're coming in the human connection. They're coming in for a really fantastic experience, but they may go away and spend on this, so they may actually spend on their phone in the store while they're in the store, but it's going to be harder to measure, so it isn't store versus digital. The store is still really important. But the actual function of the store is going to change. And then we're seeing a lot more retail turn up in all sorts of media. Have you ever heard of Roadblocks? It's a kid's game. It's like the Lego of this generation. So when my eldest child was at the small it was all about Minecraft. Now it's Roadblock. So Roadblocks is like a digital Lego and millions of kids on it. And what they do is they build games and they can share games with other kids. And it's a very creative space. So you can now buy a pair of Gucci sneakers to wear on your character in the game for 20 dollars.

Russ Johns: [00:25:33] There's entire stores, like you can purchase items for your virtual world.

Miriam Simon: [00:25:39] So I actually saw a thing on LinkedIn this morning, which was that somebody had paid more money for, I think it was a Gucci handbag then to have in the game, Roadblocks, they paid more money for the Gucci handbag than it would have cost them to have a physical handbag. Bear in mind that handbag they just bought, they will never have. It's for an avatar in a game to carry around. So we're seeing this whole blend of retail is becoming media and it's become entertainment and it's exciting. I'm like fascinated, excited, terrified everything at the same time when I watch what's happening.

Russ Johns: [00:26:19] Yeah. Marcia says, as vendors in this new world, we will ship direct to consumer. Or to the stores distribution centers.

Miriam Simon: [00:26:29] That's quite a harder question. So if you look Nike and Adidas is now following suit, so we're seeing a lot of the really big, super brands move to a D to C, a direct consumer strategy. And that is and you can actually see the impact that has happened on retail. So for example, J D sports, which is a UK company, they're based in Manchester in the UK, they've been buying up a load of American chains actually recently. They bought DTLR very recently. They've been buying up so you can see... so what Nike are doing is they're massively shrinking the amount of retailers that they are stocking now because it's far more profitable for them to have their own amazing stores to sell directly to the consumer digitally. So D to C is a really big trend for the bigger brands. So yes, the whole distribution piece is dynamically changing also. So Marcia, you are absolutely right there.

Russ Johns: [00:27:27] And Howard brings up the point that Amazon now introducing more entertainment in the online shopping space too, with their Amazon live. And now they just purchased what was it? The big media company.

Miriam Simon: [00:27:38] When I think of Jeff Bezos, I actually think of a bond supervillain. I expected spin round in a chair on his lap.  If you remember that, do you remember the movie? I'm showing my age here. Back to the Future, too. Do you remember? He goes to the future and Biff owns the world. So there's Biff Cinema and Biff road. We're going to end up living in an Amazon world. We are. Like he owns the ring doorbell. He actually even owns the data companies that all his on cloud services that his competitors use and it is too late. This man has too much power. He's a very clever man, but that's a business that's of a serious scale. So I anticipate that in the future, we're all going to be living in a little Amazon bubble. Amazon will be providing my care giver when I'm older and I'm joking about it, but actually I think that's the truth.

Russ Johns: [00:28:30] They do landscaping and yard service as well. I know we've got to wrap it up here and I just loved the fact that we had this conversation and thank you for doing this. If there's anything that anyone could take away from this conversation, what would it be? 

Miriam Simon: [00:28:43] I would say,  have courage and in the words of the wizard of Oz and the Cowardly Lion lean into your courage, because if ever there was a time to take the odd risk, this is it. And  I think being brave nearly always repays. So I would be brave. I would, particularly for any retailers that are listening this really is your time. So you can be nimble when you're a smaller retailer. You can be really nimble. You can try things and if they don't work, so what, try something else.  Life is a rich tapestry,

Russ Johns: [00:29:12] So rich. That is so rich. Right now, if you haven't typed in hashtag #piratenation now is the time to do it. Type in hashtag #piratenation and Miriam's going to give away an e-book on retail and some subjects that you want to know about. So let's connect and collaborate. If you're not connected with Miriam, also reach out. Where's the best place to connect with you, Miriam?

Miriam Simon: [00:29:36] You can get me on LinkedIn. I'm a bit of a LinkedIn chick at Miriam Simon on LinkedIn, or you can...  I'm terrible on Instagram, so actually if you've enjoyed this chart, please follow me on Instagram at Miriam_pto.

Russ Johns: [00:29:50] I love it. I love it. So let me get this up here and let's share this out. Make this happen here today. I love it. Okay. We're going to draw. And the winner is. James Jimmy jam. How you doing James? Thank you so much. This is awesome. I love it. I love it. And I'm sure that we could actually probably connect with a few other people here as the replays start up.. So Miriam, thank you so much for being here. It's always a pleasure to connect with you.

Miriam Simon: [00:30:40] Yeah, a lovely thought to you and have a great day.  You're just beginning your day. I'm away for a cup of tea now in the afternoon.

Russ Johns: [00:30:47] Good for you. Good for you. Have a wonderful weekend, a fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend as well.

Miriam Simon: [00:30:52] Lovely to talk to you today.

Russ Johns: [00:30:54] And always everyone, #kindnessiscool, #smilesarefree and you #enjoytheday.

Don't go away.

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