I read a fascinating book called Built to Sell by John Warrillow. The book is a business parable about a guy who owns an advertising agency and wants to sell it. His mentor shows him how to transform his business to make it salable.
Most retailers would dismiss the book because on the surface it doesn't seem to apply. The first step is to limit your focus to only that which you do better and more profitable than anyone else so that you can create a turnkey operation. That doesn't translate well to indie retail.
But there is a lesson hid inside there that we all can use.
Maybe you cannot change your product mix to become the leader of the pack, but you certainly can change your services. In fact, you can change them so radically that you become a category of one (another good business book worth reading).
Simply decide which customer subset you want to cater to, and then cater to them at the exclusion of all others.
Roy H. Williams calls this "choose who to lose".
For instance, you could decide you only want to cater to the uber-rich. You'll probably want to change some of your product, but to truly capture that customer you'll have to totally change your services. Hours by appointment only. Red carpet ready and waiting to be rolled. Soft sofas and chairs for seating. Food and drinks served. A personal shopper to bring the items to the customer. Private showings for her and her friends at her penthouse.
Or you might be a toy store that caters to the daddy crowd. That might mean beer and pizza and big-screen TV's, pre-wrapped gifts, diaper changing service, plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied until the game is over.
Do something like that and instead of the kids clamoring to go to the toy store, dad will be suggesting it during breakfast.
While it is getting more and more difficult to separate yourself just on the products you carry, this age of self-serve checkouts leaves you a ton of room to separate yourself from the pack by the services you offer.
Who are you willing to lose to win the heart (and pocketbook) of someone else?
PS We started with the bargain hunter. I don't match prices or run coupons or special deals just to entice people in the door. Yes, we have a clearance sale to move out the dogs, but that's it. We instead focus on customers looking for trust. There are plenty of them out there.