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Small business retail advice: consciously pursuing retail success and enjoyment

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A fresh look from at retail today and the opportunity for intentionally pursuing change for a brighter future.

Find a private place, hang a do not disturb sign on the door, put on music you love and please read on.

In this blog post, we share what we hope will prove to be valuable ideas, which help you create a more successful business and a more enjoyable business life. You will have seen some members embracing some of these ideas already as we have shared our thoughts through a process of evolution.

While this is advice from our Tower Systems POS software company, it is advice from us as retailers – yes, we own and run successful retail shops.

To us, conscious intention is deliberate decision making, pursuing change, for a better outcome for you, your business and all it serves.

WHERE ARE WE AT?

Retail is changing, faster than ever. In change, you can create opportunities. This is exciting. The key is to be deliberate in your embrace of change.

Yes, you have heard that before, probably so much that you ignore it. What we share here is important, new, and written for you.

Today, the pace of change is faster and the extent of change more comprehensive, most likely beyond what you see. There are myriad factors at play, myriad pressures on retail.

There are more competitors, many you will never see.

Shoppers are more empowered.

Shopping is less like shopping.

No business is immune: city, country, high street and shopping centre.

The days of making major changes and leaving them in place for years are over.

The borders between types of retail businesses are blurred.

Your customers can easily now be more than locals.

People want to be able to buy when they want to buy.

What constitutes a shop has changed, forever.

It is okay to keep doing what you are doing. Our advice is you make your decisions and take your actions with conscious intention. Drifting is not an option, unless you do it consciously, with intent. If your decision is to not change, we 100% respect that.

WHAT IS DIFFERENT TODAY?

In summary, to get you thinking, here is a list of what we see as different:

  1. Whereas in the past, a shop-fit would have a life of five or more years. Today, shops must look significantly different every eighteen months. We say this based on the rate of change we see in retail.
  2. Whereas in the past, fixtures were fixed, today fixtures float, can be moved, are flexible and enable rapid change without cost.
  3. Whereas in the past, lights were either on or off, today, darkness and shade are used to bring texture and emotion to parts of a store.
  4. Whereas in the past, a shop was made up of shop fixtures, today, everyday items make the best support for displaying products. Rugs on the floor, couches, easy chairs, rustic looking floors, natural looking walls.
  5. Shopkeeping is out. Engaged retail is in. Shopkeepers operate from the back room and behind the counter. Retailers engage on the shop floor.
  6. Local is more important than ever. Supporting local makers reinforces your local credentials.
  7. Whereas in the past, you did what you did because it was expected of the shingle, everything in the business now, all decisions, need to be about demographic targeting, a layered multi-demo strategy – chasing new traffic.
  8. Whereas in the past, your business was dominated by rules, today rules are gone for many product categories. Choices are at your doorstep.
  9. Whereas in the past, supplier representatives were a valued source of innovation advice, today, you are the innovator.

UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION.

Every business needs a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), that which is unique about their business in the area from which they draw customers, that which separates the business from other businesses.

It is vital that you know what your USP is and that you are mindful of this in all business decisions. Please see our knowledge base article on USP.

HOW WE CHANGE HAS CHANGED.

The process of change itself has changed. Whereas in the past we would plan, plan and plan before execution, today, we are in a world of rapid change and more change if the changes are not delivering what we need.

Motion (change) is and must be perpetual. It is almost like every day you asking what can I change today?

SMALL STEPS.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed. We suggest a small steps strategy. Undertaking many small steps can make any project more digestible and affordable. You do not have to do everything at once. Take small steps, but keep taking them.

INVENTORY.

Your inventory determines who your shop will appeal to, the occasions they will buy for, whether they talk about you, whether they will come back and if they trust you.

  1. Buy consciously. Buy with outcomes in mind: know the shopper and the occasion, think about how you could market a product externally and know where a product fits in the story of your business.
  2. Be demographic conscious. The age of shoppers and those they purchase for is determined by what you stock. Buy for multiple demographics: pre-teen, teen, young adult, adult / family, mature / retiree. All product purchases should fit the demographics you preference.
  3. Be price-point open. Two similar items at different price points can perform better than one product at one price point. Choice can drive sales.
  4. Don’t buy for yourself. You are not your customer.
  5. Tell stories. A cool item may not sell if it is the only item of its type or category in the business. The same item placed as part of a story could perform much better. When you buy, buy to a story.
  6. Measure and cut. If items are not performing, cut them. Stocking items because someone may want them some day is not good. Use your data, act on it. Set your stock turn goals and use these to measure against.

SHOP LAYOUT.

The more your business looks like a traditional business in your channel, the more it will be judged as traditional, the more it will perform traditionally. There is nothing wrong with this, if it is a conscious choice.

We encourage you to not run a traditional business because there is no evidence in performance data or in retail history to indicate that traditional model has any upside.

The best way to not be considered traditional is to not look like one.

Here is what this means:

  1. Keep visual noise to a minimum. This means less posters and signs. Let your products be seen and be the heroes.
  2. Your shop should push back against what shoppers used to expect from your type of business.
  3. Make the front third of the shop open with non-permanent fixtures that are flexible and easily moved. These are best if they are everyday items: tables, a couch, boxes and more. The more colour, texture and style the less like a shop your shop will feel and the more relaxed shoppers will be.
  4. Floor rugs are effective too, under a table fixture especially.
  5. No tradition at the counter. Use the counter for products that are easily purchased on impulse, that play against expectations.
  6. A feature wall behind the counter that can be changed easily.
  7. Different colours and textures rather than the usual shop-fit look.
  8. Different lighting to highlight different part of the business.
  9. Less shop-fit made fixtures and more personally made or found items.
  10. Product placement such that it encourages people to explore. Embrace treasure hunt retail … where people wander the shop hoping to find treasure.
  11. Move tasks, pricing, returns and more to the shop floor. This will reduce shopper theft and increase sales.
  12. Have the least amount of staff resources behind the counter as possible. On the shop floor the same people can guide purchases.

CUSTOMER INTERACTION.

Be grateful people are in your shop and show this in your interaction and the interaction of all team members.

Saying hi to shoppers is nice, but not out of the ordinary.

Encourage team members to change up their greeting: good morning, nice to see you, thank you for coming in today

Work on farewells: thanks for visiting, it was good to see you, take care out there

In-store, offer experiences that are unexpected and / or appreciated.

  1. If you sell any type of candy, offer tastings.
  2. Have filtered water or iced tea to cool people in summer.
  3. Have homemade soup in small takeaway cups for winter.
  4. Structure times to demonstrate products. Hire people who are happy to demonstrate.

Love your customers. Consider a wall of customer love with photos you have taken of customers and photos customers have brought in.

Reset your customer interaction with a focus on more fun and happiness.

OUTSIDE.

What you do, say and share outside also defines the business in the minds of shoppers and would-be shoppers. It is vital that your out of business communication and representation is intentional and reflective of how you want the business seen.

The more you post on social media and talk about products and services that are not known to be in your type of shop the more you become your own thing.

Be intentional in what you do and say outside your business. Further your mission ahead of the mission of the channel or channel traditional suppliers.

WHAT IF YOU DON’T CHANGE?

If you do not change your business it will perform in line with its current trajectory. If you are happy with that, embrace it.

If you are not happy with the current business trajectory, change is essential.

HOW WE CAN HELP?

Tower Systems, through its local small business experienced retail team can provide insights, suggestions and encouragement for you to reset your business.

We all have current retail experience.

We can bring detached perspective to help you combat store-blindness.

Leveraging our engagement starts with asking.

By Mark

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