Adapting to Current Conditions

Thanks to our friend Doug Fleener ("Retail Expert – Speaker – Consultant – All around good guy" according to his twitter profile) for pointing out an article from Reuters, "Small U.S. stores adopt personal touch to survive).  Aparantly written for a British audience (a dollar figure is converted to pounds), the article point out some of the things that retailers are doing to increase business.  It's worth noting that all the retailers interviewed are from higher-income areas in the Chicago metro, but the advice still holds.

For example, Sue Opeka, owner of The Present Moment in Libertyville, sells "affirmational and motivational" gifts.  Her sales are up 15% for the past four months.  When she began her customer appreciation program last year, she was hoping for 200 members in the first three months.  She got 1,000.   Opeka adds that "our goal has always been  to go beyond retail and make this a place where women can feel good about themselves."  That includes a "Gathering Place" in the back of the store where she holds workships and serves tea. 

Dana Fisher, a retailer from the Chicago suberb of Oak Park says, "It's not that people aren't spending, they're just spending on different things."

TNS Retail Forward, a research firm, predicts that holiday sales will be up just 1.5 percent, the weakest since 1991.  With the dynamics of today's marketplace and economy, any increase should be appreciated. 

Remember that some heavy hitters are either in bankrupcy or on the verge.  The big guys are hurting. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that many independent retailers will blow that 1.5 percent figure away. 

Doug is also quoted in the article.  He says, "To get through this season as an independent retailer, you have to adapt."  But that's your strong suit, isn't it.  Smaller businesses are much more flexible, much better able to adapt than your larger competitors.  While Wally World and other BBs have warehouses full of merchandise that they ordered well before the current economic situation became aparent, hopefully you still have open-to-buy for the holidays and can adjust your buying to fit the market.

Where it takes three committees and a half dozen meetings to put together an ad for a few thousand stores, you can pick up the phone and call the local radio station and have something on the air in a few hours.  Better yet, you can send an email blast, or communicate with your customers on Facebook or MySpace in a matter of minutes.

No, you're all about adapting and providing personal service.  It may mean you'll have to work a little harder for the next few weeks, but come January 1 it will all be worthwhile.

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