Independent Retailers – Challenges and Opportunities

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Independent Retailers – Challenges and Opportunities

By John Stanley Independent retailers had a “heyday” during the 1970’s and 1980’s, then “box stores” saw the opportunity to make a commodity offer and as a result gained market share with the result that independent retailers that did not know how to compete, disappeared from the marketplace. We are now in a new era. The era of the internet and lifestyle retailing. It is estimated that 40% of purchases will be via the internet within five years, commodity retailing has gone online. Companies such as IKEA, Tesco’s, Urban Outfitters and others who understand lifestyle retailing and the consumer have decided to enter the lifestyle market as a perceived independent level. Where does this leave the independent? I believe, with an excellent opportunity. They will have to change dramatically, but so will all retailers. Those who wish to meet the challenges will have a profitable and exciting future in an industry that can make a difference in the world. Those challenges as I see them are as follows: Challenge of Retail Layout – Consumers, when recreational shopping, are looking for an experience. Imagine you were a 35 year old female shopper. You have just visited Zara, to look at the latest clothes fashion, and then you drop into Starbucks for a latte, after your coffee you stop at IKEA to look at the latest furniture trends and then drop into the local garden centre. You would expect the same standard of retail experiences and inspirations in all stores. The challenge is does your store come up the customers expectations. Rows of products in a grid system and a lack of solutions and ideas presented to the customer will not work anymore. If you’re in the retail game in the future you’ll have to meet and exceed the consumer’s demands. They want to be inspired and wander through room settings that provide ideas and solutions. The Environmental Centre that Cares – People are becoming more aware of the planet and that they should care for it. They also expect their local retailer to care as well. Consumers will expect products to be sourced locally, products sold will be organic and to be able to recycle waste products at your store. They will react negatively to retailers who provide mixed messages. Gifts from China, plants that destroy the local habitat and patio heaters that pollute the atmosphere will indicate to the consumer that your store is not interested in caring for the environment. Change in Target Market – Traditionally alot of industries have targeted Baby Boomers who had a bigger wallet than younger generations. The larger section of the market now is the Jones Generation and Gen X. Many retailers will need to down age to grow their business. Change in Product Mix – Consumers want to grow their own food and care for the local environment. Fruit, vegetable, local plant and sustainable product growth will replace categories such as inorganic garden care, gifts and garden furniture. Garden centres will look for new adjacent retail categories, these could include pet accessories, baby shops and environmentally orientated businesses. Neighbour to Neighbour – Local business that cares for the local community will flourish. The end of the last century and the start of this one were about globalisation with global business dominating the marketplace. Consumers are now searching out local businesses that care about their local community. Retailers that are seen to be proactive in the community will reap the rewards. Story Tellers will Increase Sales – We all love stories. Sales people who can tell stories about the product, where it came from, its unusual properties and history will entrance us and encourage the consumer to take even a greater interest. Before a sales person hits the shop floor they will need to do their homework and become story tellers. Provide Awesome Customer Service – Everyone provides great customer service, they tell you and I that they do. To be memorable and to build a business you need to provide awesome customer service. The opportunities are enormous. Don’t provide the best customer service in your industry, provide the best customer service that the customer experiences in their shopping excursions. Word of mouth will soon spread. Blog it, SMS it, You Tube it – Traditional advertising will become less and less effective. The retail store owner of the future will need to communicate with their consumer in different ways. In this IT age web pages need to be blog friendly, communications need to be via SMS direct to their mobile phone and you need to produce your own movies on your business and place them on sites like You Tube. Independent retailers have the opportunity to be the retail hub of the community in the future. It is an exciting time for independents are you ready for the challenge? John Stanley is an internationally recognised conference speaker and retail consultant with over 25 years experience in 18 countries. He has authored several successful marketing and retail books including the best seller Just About Everything a Retail Manager Needs to Know. John’s retail experience covers hands-on retailing in supermarkets, hardware stores, garden centres, farmers markets and drug stores. For more information John Stanley and his services visit his website www.johnstanley.cc