Despite the headlines, what we are witnessing is not the death of all retail. Retail is splitting in two. This time, small retailers are the big winners.
Future of Retail Webinar
Deb Brown and I are making this Future of Retail the subject of our next webinar at SaveYour.Town.
We’ll talk about the underlying consumer trend driving this split and how in-person retail will become more than just bricks and mortar.
We’ll share why small retailers are actually in a better position than big boxes and what specific steps retailers can take to thrive into the future. You’ll get beyond the basics to go Rural Omni Local, reaching your customers where they are and using some new tools–and some old ones–to get there.
For local organizations like chambers of commerce and downtown associations, we are going to apply the Idea Friendly Method to how you work with local merchants. You’ll learn the number one challenge local businesses say they face, and how that can help attract merchants to your group. You’ll also see how to pull down the barriers to entry for local retailers, generating lots more retail startups and activity in your community.
Why not have a watch party? Invite your crowd to view the recorded lesson, and learn some small steps you can use right away. Get all the details at The Future of Retail at SaveYour.Town.
How did we get here?
There are a lot of news stories that point to eCommerce as the cause of big retail’s decline and also as its replacement. Today, you can reorder all your regular items like paper towels or laundry soap just by telling your voice-controlled assistant to handle it. Even more automated, you can set up all regular items on recurring shipments that you don’t even think about. How long before your refrigerator and cupboards will notice you’re low on something and just reorder it? That means no chance for a big box store to capture an impulse purchase when you make a quick run to the store for those items.
Going by the stories you hear and how you shop, you’d think like 75% of sales are online sales. They aren’t. It’s 9% as of Q3 2017. (Check the historical charts here) While online sales are increasing quickly, this can’t be the only cause for big retail’s decline or the only replacement. We’re also purchasing less for a variety of societal and cultural reasons and big boxes have a serious debt problem. But that still leaves a lot of purchases being made that are not at big boxes and not online.
Where are the rest of sales going? Small retailers.
While all boring retail purchases get automated, interesting retail purchases become small, sustainable, curated, handcrafted, local and integrated with technology. Items we care about, are interested in, and want to enjoy shopping for, will come from small local retailers.
Customers are already shifting their spending to smaller retailers. The MasterCard SpendingPulse for Small Business has reported on the “general consumer trend to shop small” for the past four years. Bloomberg finally picked it up in November with the memorable headline, Mom and Pop Shops Are Threatening the Mall This Holiday Season. (Sorry, not sorry!)
Big retailers are responding by downsizing their giant stores, but I think this misses the point of what customers really want: local small retailers.
What can local stores in small towns do today to capitalize on retail’s big split?
- Offer items that can’t be bought online. Locally-produced items, personalization and special services give you an advantage.
- Be your best small retail self. Know your product better than anyone. Give outstanding service. Be open later hours when customers are available.
- Focus on experience, enjoyment and meaning. Customers want to know their purchases matter.
- Use online retail’s own tools against them. Try automatic orders, delivery, and better recommendations.
- Add more technology to be more human. Use tablets to improve your service. Teach customers how to buy from you through Alexa and Siri.
While everyone else is focused on what all this means for big boxes, I’m more interested in the effects on small independent stores.
Join Deb Brown and me to learn more about this small town retail future.
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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.