Bionic Retail: How to Thrive in an Exponential World

Gary Hawkins

Publisher: Amplify Publishing Pages: 328 Price: (hardcover) $28.00 ISBN: 9798891380639 Reviewed: February, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

Longtime retail executive and author of (among other titles) Building the Customer Specific Retail Enterprise, Gary Hawkins started his career running the family supermarket just at the time that early customer loyalty programs surfaced a need to collect data on shoppers who had previously been anonymous. This serendipitous entry into the industry informs the perspective that guides this book: that change is inevitable, that innovation is invaluable, and that vision must be committed to.

Hawkins’ text comprises loosely-connected—though universally applicable— subjects that fall under the rough heading of “innovation,” including how chaos theory applies to retail, how ChatGPT can be used for marketing, how the bar code changed shopping, how first principles need always be applied, well, first.

The author includes case studies, such as the story of Lego, which struck gold with franchise partnerships like Star Wars, and the ghost kitchens that began popping up shortly (and providentially) before COVID. These stories, while interesting on their own, are bulked up with unnecessary metaphorical framing, such as Cesar at the Rubicon or soldiers during Desert Storm, which feel tangential enough to distract from the narrative and advice.

When the title is finally explained, it’s rather unsettling. Hawkins quotes futurist Ray Kurzweil: “The merger [between biological and machine intelligence] has already started. I mean, first of all, this [his cell phone] is not inside my body and brain, but it’s pretty close.” Retail and the human form, he posits, are converging into one bionic being.

The topics of Bionic Retail are sufficiently sprawling that the whole comes across as unfocused and meandering, although Hawkins’ relish for his subject keeps the writing lively. While readers will find solid advice scattered throughout, a stronger through-line would have given this the backbone it needs.

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