I have been asked to apply for a position on an advisory board for a new retail organization. Part of the application process includes a questionnaire. I am stuck on the last question...
Without regard for funding, what is one area of concentration or program you would implement today to help independent specialty stores survive?
There are so many ways to go with this...
I could focus on vendor programs slanted in the favor of indie stores such as Minimum Ad Pricing policies, exclusive products, not selling to online discounters, etc.
I could focus on advertising and marketing to promote the value of shopping local and shopping independent.
I could focus on websites to help customers find their local indie store, or even website design for all local stores so that everyone would have that electronic presence required necessary to compete in today's electronic world.
But the first place my mind went when I read that question was Training. In many ways, we are our own worst enemies. We undermine our own stores through weak customer service, bad inventory management, or ignorance of our financials. We put out horrible ads that do nothing to attract customers. We hire poorly, neglect training and wonder why our staff doesn't get it.
Sure, most indie retailers do one or two things well, some impressively well. But often that is not enough.
Dr. Ernesto Sirolli believes independent businesses need to be strong in three areas - product, marketing, and finances - to be successful, but most individuals have a passion for only one, maybe two of those. It takes all three to be successful so his approach is to pair people with different strengths together.
I believe you can learn to be good at all three, but you have to first want to learn. And that may be the hardest hurdle to overcome. You can lead an indie retailer to training, but you can't make him learn.
I guess in the end I will probably go with Vendor Programs in my answer. But just imagine a world where every independent shop truly had WOW customer service, excellent cash flow, strong finances, and magnetic marketing...
PS Yes, I was talking about you... and me, too. I have a whole bunch of areas I need to improve. Are you seeking yours out as actively as I am seeking out mine?
PPS Have you seen my 2-day Retail Success Academy course? Get your business friends together and you can hire me to share what I know. (The offer for 4 hours of training with the purchase of 60 books is still available, too)