Retail - remembering our past while moving to the future

Posted Jan 27th, 2012 in Entrepreneurship

Retail - remembering our past while moving to the future

The future of brick and mortar retail stores.  Fundamentals of retail are what we need to consider when asking why some retailers succeed and others fail.

Why are some retail stores successful, and others aren't?

There are a few key points to why certain retail stores have been successful. These points haven't changed since the early days when local community members could go to the general store to purchase a bushel of apples or some penny candy for the kids.  Remember the days that Eaton's opened their first department store in Toronto?  Yes, there are still a few people around (including my parents) that remember shopping downtown Toronto at the Eaton Centre where the horses and buggies were all lined up out front waiting for the opportunity to take deliveries to their customers.

What is a Retail Business?

Retail is defined as a store that offers a place to buy small purchases.  Some stores are big, some are small.  Some are chains, and some are independent.  Some are in rural communities, and some are in a downtown core.  Retail stores come in all shapes and sizes, as well as offering different products and services.  Some have prospered and some have failed, but the 'brick and mortar' store will continue to live on and be successful if they remember a few key timeless points.

Tips to build a successful retail business

  • Customer service -  Hands down it will be superior customer service that will sustain our brick & mortar retail stores - product knowledge & experience, and willingness to go the extra mile to keep the customer happy.  For many retailers their customers are more than just someone who buys a product or service from their store, it is a form of friendship - a mutual relationship that both sides benefit.   However, not all customers will be loyal customers and those are the ones that prefer to go wherever the price is the lowest.  But those that frequently support their local retailer know that when they enter the store they will be welcomed by name, employees will offer their undivided attention, and extra service  will be given.  You have a questions?  "Let me answer that for you!"  or "I will find the answer out for you right away".  Staff in many retail stores are quite experienced in their areas of expertise and so the answers that they give are quite valuable.  This is part of the retail experience that you just don't get online.
  • Location, Location, Location - is one of the key points of success for our retailers, but if you noticed, I put this point second.  Accessibility and Visibility is still important, but remember - people will drive a distance to a place that offers good value - in price, product and service.
  • Innovation - Stay up with the times, but know your customer.  Successful retailers listen to their target audience and offer to them the innovations that matter to them.  These innovations may be in the form of a new product in the store, longer hours, email notification of upcoming events, service clinics, Facebook page, etc.  Whichever it may be - Listen & Respond.

Take for instance the Wilmette Bicycle & Sports Shop in Chicago.

They are still 'thriving' after 80 years - everyone's measure of success is different, but the lessons they teach can be used for all retailers today.  Watch and see why they are still in business because this is a story of how and why retail brick & mortar stores are surviving today.  A little nostalgia and lessons learned for us moving into the future.  Watch the Video clip.
"Chicago's Wilmette Bicycle & Sports Shop was featured in a four-minute segment on NBC's Today show this week, held up as an example of how old-school retailing can thrive despite the odds." says Bicycle Retailer
Are their retailers in your community that are making a difference?  How are they setting themselves apart from their competition? For the Love of Retail...

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