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Adapt Or Die

In 2014, when I was working with Facebook in London, we moved to shiny new offices on Brock Street. We shared the building with a more "traditional" tenant, Debenhams.

So, I was doubly sad to hear from the BBC that Debenhams will shut for good. Granted, the brand and website will survive, but their 118 High Street stores and 12,000 jobs will be lost.

That same BBC news story shared news on the fortunes of Philip Green's Arcadia Group. ASOS are apparently in talks to buy the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands - but, again, not their shops.

There's an uncomfortable irony about e-commerce retailers purchasing the brands of those they set out to disrupt. Twenty years ago e-commerce was seen as a "fad" and the creator of a bubble.

Oh, how the tables have turned.

Meanwhile, Shopify's market cap is set to reach $150 billion. And Amazon are a $1.65 trillion (yes, trillion) market cap company.

It's easy to "blame" Amazon for the current state of the high street. Yet, it's the retailers themselves that didn't adapt quickly enough to the changing reality of the internet.

Newspapers ignored that same reality. Some adapted - The New York Times earned $1.81 billion in revenues in 2019 - but many others did not adapt. Or survive.

They didn't realise quickly enough their "hand-to-hand combat" approach was out of date. I know first hand how this happens - I worked for a traditional newspaper group in the early 2000's. Protect traditional revenues, or adapt to new media. What a dilemma.

As humans, we've been adapting for hundreds of thousands of years. It's worked out pretty well. Biology, technology, democracy - and much more besides - helped us grow and prosper. We're living longer than ever before. We're dying older.

In a technology-first world, businesses must adapt quickly.

If they don't, they'll die younger than they need to.