Retailing 2008 – A Tough Year for Some

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Retailing 2008 – A Tough Year for Some

“Job Slump Latest Omen of Recession” Pick up Saturday the 5th January Los Angeles Times and this would be the heading that would have greeted you. A news headline to welcome you to 2008, with an effect that could affect retailers around the world. We are being warned that 2008 could be a tougher year for retailers around the world than we have seen for a number of years. The negative news seems to be coming out of the USA and worrying the global banks, but at the same time Asia keeps powering along and that will continue until at least August when Beijing hosts the Olympic Games. These are global issues that as a small retailer you have no influence over , you cannot change world events, but you will feel the ripple effect as a result of these events. What you can do is make sure you have build defences in your business that are stronger than the competitors to ensure you weather the storm and come out a stronger retailer. I was recently asked what would be my five strategies that I would introduce into my retail business in 2008, these would be my strategies: 1 – Improve My Customer Service Every business provides customer service, ask any retailer and they will tell you. But in reality most retailers process customers rather than provide a memorable experience for the customer. Ask customers and they will tell you they would support small business if they believed the business cared. They want a memorable, positive, consistent relationship with in the store. Alas, they do not find this as often as they should which is why many pundits are predicting that 60% of sales will be via the internet within five years. Over Christmas my wife and I visited one of our local stores ([planning a BIG purchase) their average sale is $23 and we spent $400. It disappointed us to find their service to be almost non-existent, a fellow customer commented that the service at the local global box store was better and we should try there in future. It is very sad when local business fail to meet the needs of local customers and then blame the competition for taking market share. Therefore I would invest time in my team to ensure they are providing a memorable experience. The basics are important, everyone should wear a name badge as not every customer can remember a team members name and new customers will rarely ask. Encourage them to get to know customers names and to build relationships. It is easy to build relationships with customers who have already become friends , the challenge is to do it with a stranger. Start with ensuring your team verbally welcome every customer and follow this up with a social comment or question before the inevitable” How can I help you?” This simple approach is the starting point to show you care and want some empathy with the customer. It makes a difference to the bottom line. 2 – Get Wired As I have already mentioned customers will increasingly buy from the internet, that means that they could be buying from you via the internet. I would ensure I had a web presence and that I was promoting that to my consumers and advising them that they can now buy products from the web. I would ensure my web page was Blog friendly and active. It may start off slowly, but in the future a large percentage of sales will be via the web and why not keep that business or even grow your business via the web. 3 – Start A Loyalty Club I realise a number of retailers have loyalty clubs and many have resisted because they feel it is expensive. I disagree, it can be a cheap and easy to implement system and it works. It can be as simple as a card that a team member stamps every time the customer comes in. Our local health shop has a cardboard loyalty card that easily slips into my wife’s purse. It is stamped every time she visits the store and is used as a conversation tool by the retailer. The customer gets rewarded based on the number of visits and the amount spent. It is a very low cost system, but it has kept our family loyal to their business. 4 – Network with Other Local Retailers Neighbour to Neighbour marketing is the big marketing drive at present. The aim is not to keep people coming back to your store, but to keep the local cash flow within the community. The more people shop locally the more win:win relationships can be developed. Work with retailers within your community to build the community. My own town of Kalamunda is situated on the outskirts of Perth , Western Australia and has started networking at a local level to stop consumers from getting in their cars and visiting the air conditioned shopping mall in the next suburb. The networking is being driven via the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and other local groups. As a result we have a vibrant retail community that has a thriving monthly craft market and at least four different festivals a year in the town. One indicator of the success of this approach is the number of coffee shops that have opened in the town in the last number of years. I am not saying every retailer is behind this campaign, we have retailers who complain we have too many customers in town and you cannot park a car, but once you get 60% of retailers supporting your campaign, you are on the way. 5 – Dare to be Different I have covered customer service and marketing concepts, but also develop the internal displays in your store. When economies are motoring along, you can play safe and still win, but as the song says “ Once the going gets tough, the tough get going”. In retailing this means building displays that are daring and therefore noticed. Displays that stop consumers in their tracks and make them smile, go WOW or just want to buy the product on display. You have to achieve this in a five second glance from the customer. Most displays are missed by the consumer because they don’t yell at them. Go out and make your displays yell. Dare to be Different as long as you do not offend your target customer base. Plus remember you have to keep changing them, customers soon get bored. It was Bob Dylan in the sixties who made the phase, “The Times Are a Changing” famous in one of his folk songs. Those times are back, enjoy them. 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