Is a Retailer’s Worst Nightmare and Enemy, Really Just Themselves?
I have been writing my blog for over three years now and I have written variations on this topic a few times during those three years.
It seems to be a continual issue within certain segments or groups of retail(ers) rather than others. It’s also one of those things the confuses and intrigues me even as a retailer because as one of these retail people(s), I just don’t get it.
There are many retailers who still can’t grasp the idea of being themselves. Being unique and different. They talk like they want to be different. They talk like they want to be unique. They talk about a lot of things but at the end of the day, all they really talk about is how to compete against each other using the same weapons as each other. Always about a specific product and price thereof. And always complaining about the same guys treating the same products “poorly”.
They disregard the multitude of retailers that have done there own thing with many of the same or similar products. They don’t think about the Trader Joes and Whole Foods (Think they figured something out?) and continue to focus on the Wal Marts and Targets of the world (this is obviously a North American slanted blog post) only. They forget about about the many other large guys who have done really well by doing their own thing – like Ikea and Restoration Hardware. The list goes on and on.
Discussion after discussion is focussed on “what the other guys are doing” and how do we compete against the other guy. I can’t compete with this product in my store because Wal Mart is cheaper. Can you believe that Shoppers is killing that commodity that way on the front page. Oh my God, Target is coming and they are going have product A, B, and C like us and they are going to do this to it!
On and on it goes. Always the same focus, what is the other guy doing with A, and what should I do with A to compete?!
My focus has always been the same (in all the categories I manage); what they do with A, B, and C is something I need to know, but my focus should be not be with that. What I’m going to do with that information is make sure I can find, or manage the X, Y, and Z items that I have; the items they don’t have or just can’t do well at. My job; “Can I make a story out of the “other stuff” and find a spot to play in?”
Find the treasure (I know, that is so over used – like “think out of the box” – I hate that expression) and make sure you do a good job selling that.
People, consumers, still want to have fun shopping. Believe it or not, no matter how busy we are and no matter how much we complain, most of us do like shopping and hunting for cool things. We happen to characterize all shopping as tedious and boring and just part of life. That is probably true for most people when think about everyday groceries, or everyday basic needs (toothpaste, bathroom needs, cosmetics etc…), but that probably does not apply to many other things like gadgets and electronic toys (look how many waited for the new BlackBerry, Microsoft Surface Pro, or poor selling iPhone 5 – tongue in cheek) and many commodities within even everyday groceries and everyday basics categories.
Don’t believe me? Walk into a Whole Foods or a Trader Joes. Walk by a Lush store or a Sephora. Stroll thru an Ikea. Check out a Lululemon and see how dead they all are.
People do like to shop. People will spend time shopping. You just need to give them a compelling reason to shop you; and guess what; its not compelling to offer the same things as everyone else! Stop worrying about how you are going offer the exact same things and bust out and give your consumers something new, something retro, something cool, something to remember you by. Anything but the same!
This could include the service you provide as well, and not just the product. Make your store or your staff stand apart from the others. Do something crazy like get your staff to smile and to just say hello. Get your folks to learn how to suggestive sell properly – tell me that I need that great coffee over there with that beautiful coffee machine I just bought. Suggest a great condiment you discovered to make my steak or chicken purchase better. Ask me why I bought that particular brand of product (where applicable), show some interest in me and my purchase(s). Just engage!
Make the same, boring products that are carried by all stand out. Move things into different areas or merchandise them in a way that makes me stop and actually look at that boring product differently. Make it easy for me to shop and easy for me to associate product purchases. Help me fill my basket or buggy! I’m in your store and I am obviously shopping – help me!
Pretty simple stuff and yet the industry’s focus tends to be solely on what the other guy is doing in terms of specific products, and most often, it’s always about price. Come on folks. There is more to this game than price! There would have to be or the only retail would be Wal Mart, Costco, Winners, Marshalls etc… You would not have Apple, Whole Foods, Lululemon etc…
Let’s try and make retail fun again. First step, start enjoying it again! Less complaining and moaning – more hunting to get me that one more cool thing so that we make my “boring” shopping adventure more enjoyable.
My rant for the day. Amazing how wound up I can get while I wait in the airport to get back home.
Ciao for now @kootenayborn