“Resistance is (NOT) futile”

The retail shakeout will continue but it doesn’t have to be you. __ Bob Phibbs

Yes, times they are a’changin’! Retail is changing. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. You don’t have to play into the prevailing sense of doom (unless you’ve already given up).

I spoke at an industry gathering this week, and a tall well-groomed older gentleman came up to me at the close and said, “I haven’t had to manage my business for the past 27 years – it just runs itself.”  __ from April Retail Doc

The nature of life is change. If we aren’t changing, adapting, and growing… there soon is no life. With that thought in mind, I’ve been pondering a post I read on my Facebook page this morning by The Retail Doc. Bob Phibbs has been consulting and training retail businesses – large and small – for decades.

Look there’s no magic bullet out there to save you from the Borg of retail right now –  that everyone will be assimilated and resistance is futile.  It will be a series of small steps. … We’re in a seismic shift in shopping. Do what you can and have a laser focus on your customer in a human way. Remember, you can’t close your doors to become successful. __ from April Retail Doc

In the above quote, he acknowledges the dire circumstances retail is in. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. But, if you read the full post and others he’s written, he also offers workable solutions to calm the retail angst. Not easy ones. Not simple ones. Not even comfortable ones. The solutions require looking at the situation honestly, acknowledging the changes, and working hard to step up to the plate and go for the home run.  He recognizes that shopping behavior changes are drastic and challenging. Then he says, ‘pull up your big boy/big girl panties’ and get to work.

I would add the following to his post:

  • Quit pushing discounts and sales – you’re merely adding to the perception that you can go ‘cheaper’
  • Quit pushing product – start telling a story;  creating interest
  • Quit assuming everyone wants what you have – start finding those who  actually DO!
  • Quit whining about shopping local – start honoring those who walk into your shop TODAY!
  • For heaven’s sake, start a conversation – and make it a positive one!

As The Retail Doc explains, if they didn’t want conversation, excellent service, and live interaction, they would have used mobile and online purchasing. But they didn’t! They walked into your shop! Now get to work and give them a reason to remember you. Give them a reason to come back by building relationships. Don’t commiserate with the negative. Parking issue? Isn’t it grand that we have so much activity in our city! Shops closed? Yes, but those that are here are waiting just for you! And we are working hard to find unique new businesses to join us. (etc etc etc)

Customer service, a great experience, are about interactions! Do you have a favored customer list? Do you have a list at all? Do you know what their favorite purchase is? Do they have a favorite color or style or interest? Do you point something out based on that knowledge? No strings – just active attention to customer details. That doesn’t cost money.

Pay attention. Listen. Look for cues that allow for conversation, connection. Hikers. Dog people. Lovers of history. Most certainly you can find a topic that interests them. Tie it into your shop. Tie it into your community. Be the shop they love to stop in for the excellent service that includes personal interest in them. Remember, the more you know about them, the more you can share why your products are a perfect fit. You have someone standing at the counter all day. Get to work and figure out ways to create a relationship with your customer.

One last thought, so many talk about the good old days. Whether it was in the 50s when life was simpler or in the 80s when everyone was shopping, those days have changed. But the customer is still a human being desiring interaction with another human being. Step up and welcome them.  It takes practice, but it is do-able. There are many places to learn how to build your customer relationships. There are many places to learn how to do better with displays, merchandising, inventory control, etc. Just get started. One step at a time. But get started. Otherwise, the Borg will assimilate you!

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