The 7 Most Common Weaknesses of Local Shops
And what we’re all going to do about them.
As we head into the busy holiday shopping season, we’ll see lots of Shop Local messages working to get customers to think about shifting their shopping more to local stores. I want to add another layer, and get rural business owners to think about making Better Local Shopping to hold on to those customers.
This is part 5 of a seven week series on the weaknesses and what we can do about them.
If you’re a local business, you can take these to heart. Make an honest effort to improve in each of these areas over these 7 weeks. That takes us up to Thanksgiving holiday in the US, Shop Small Saturday, and the final few weeks of holiday shopping everywhere.
If you’re with a Chamber of Commerce or other business organization, you can gather a small group of merchants who want to work on these together. Meet, go over the weakness, brainstorm some ideas, and maybe find ways to share resources and turn them into strengths.
- Weakness 1: Limited Business Hours
- Weakness 2. Poor Customer Service
- Weakness 3. Limited Selection
- Weakness 4: High Prices
- Weakness 5: Dated Appearance or Ugly Buildings
- Weakness 6. Not Marketing
- Weakness 7. Failing the Showrooming Test
Weakness 5. Dated Appearance or Ugly Buildings
Ever walked into a small town store and felt like you stepped into a time warp, and not in a good way? You know the type of store I mean: one with faded labels, piles of dust, and items that might as well be “vintage” because they’ve been aging on the shelf. Or maybe the clothing store still carrying 1990’s fashions. Or the cafe serving the same old stuff, when your customers and visitors would love something fresher. Then there are the business owners who smoke in the building.
What about those ugly storefronts? Or weedy parking lots? Who wants to go in there? And if you think customers won’t notice that mess out front, … well… you’re wrong. They do notice. They aren’t in your building every day, so they aren’t used to it.
Solution: Look great and leave lasting impressions.
You probably realize that people judge you by your appearance, and the same is true of your business. People are judging your business all the time by what they see.
The view from the curb matters
Roger Brooks explained the importance of how you look:
70% of first-time sales at restaurants, retail shops, lodging facilities, and attractions can come from curb appeal. We all travel: Think about these phrases: “That looks like a nice place to eat.” Or, “That looks like a nice place to stay.” Virtually every person on the planet has said those words at least once, if not dozens of times. You can spend millions of dollars marketing a town or downtown, and none of that will make me – the visitor – walk through your shop’s door. You, the merchant, must do that. Beautification, or curb appeal, is an investment with a tremendous return.
It doesn’t have to cost much
Retail expert Scott Day offered a ton of great retail appearance tips in a workshop I attended. Here are some of the highlights.
- If you park in the back of your business, make sure you walk out front every single morning and check your sidewalk and foyer. Clean up and sweep as necessary every day.
- Tape nothing to your front door. Nothing. Find another place to put signs and community flyers.
- Keep your store looking full. Use striking display items to fill empty spaces. One cosmetics store used colorful printed shopping bags from their national brand to fill the top shelf area. It gave great graphic appeal, but cost very little.
- Get your personal junk out of the front room. And get business junk out of the front room. Use or even rent storage as needed.
“Window displays are always mentioned by merchants as their best form of advertising,” Scott said. “They form the customer’s first impression of your business.”
What is that smell?
If you smoke, resolve now to never smoke inside your business again. Period.
Do not keep pets in the business. If you think your pets are different or you cover up the smell well enough, have a complete stranger run a smell check. I promise you are just used to the smell, but your customers are NOT.
Involve the city or town government
Can they improve their part of the downtown? Maybe they can re-paint light poles or street striping.
Plan your improvements
Our own Glenn Muske suggest a good way to notice what needs fixed, get organized, and get it done in his piece, Pay Attention to Small Visual Marketing Details.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.