Challenges of the Future

  “If there is any period one
would desire to be born in, is it not the age of revolution; when the old and
the new stand side by side, and admit of being compared; when the energies of
all men are searched by fear and hope; when the historic glories of the old can
be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good
one, if we but know what to do with it.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson


So begins the introduction to
Challenges of the Future: The Rebirth
of Small Independent Retail in America
”, a white paper written by Jack Stanyon, president of
Edge, an independent marketing and communications consultancy. The National
Retail Federation
, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, and the George H.
Baum Community Charitable Trust are the sponsors of what might well be the most
important thing you’ll read this year.   Produced in December, 2004, the ideas presented by Stanyon  apply to every type of retail  business and are no less current in 2006.


From the introduction: “This white paper originated from an
observation and a supposition by
Jim Baum, a
highly active and successful Morris, Illinois small, independent retailer. His observation was that macro and micro
trends affect the small independent entrepreneur differently than their large
competitors. His supposition is if small
independents could just step back, take a deep breath and think about what’s
really happening, what’s changing and what’s just over the horizon, they might
act differently. They might change how they do things. They might experiment more to take advantage
of new emerging opportunities. They
might see solutions more clearly. They
might find new ways to connect more closely to their marketplace.”

Stanyon identifies eight
trends and six challenges that affect the independent retailer. In this series of posts, we’ll take a look at
each one and the effect it might have on your business. Hopefully, each post will be a springboard to
discussion. Each of us has different
needs and aspirations, but I doubt that any of us can deny the influence that
these trends and challenges will have on all of us for the foreseeable future.

The white paper also contains
profiles of seventeen successful independent retailers. Each has a unique perspective and some good
ideas that you might be able to use.

One common theme throughout
Challenges is that we’re all in this together. Associations of independent retailers, whether they’re formal industry
groups or informal groups of non-competing retailers, allow for an exchange of
ideas and possibly joint purchasing opportunities, either for merchandise, or
for necessary services like employee benefits. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

 Hopefully this blog will be
one of those informal groups. The
original posts may contain some useful information, but it’s your comments that
will make this forum invaluable. Let’s
all learn from each other.

To get the conversation
started, here are Stanyon’s eight trends and six challenges.



  • Personalization
  • Value equation
  • Increased competition
  • Changing demographics
  • Community activism
  • Health care costs
  • Changing customer attitudes
    and behavior
  • Urban sprawl and real estate



  • The changing nature and
    effectiveness of marketing and advertising
  • Difficulties in product
    sourcing and merchandise acquisition
  • Speed and overwhelming nature
    of technological change
  • Need for delivery of higher
    levels of service
  • Transparency of price and
    product information
  • Limitations of management
    skills and capabilities

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at
the trend of personalization. Meanwhile,
be sure to download Challenges of the Future. It’s an easy read that could have a life-changing impact on you and your
business….and it’s free.





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