A question I’m asked time and time again, how can the bricks and mortar survive let alone flourish in the digital age of online shopping?
For an independent there is nothing more discouraging to spend the time with a consumer selling the benefits of the brand and sizing them up for a product to only have them come back two weeks later wearing it, riding it.
As mergers happen almost on a daily basis I could fall into the sceptic’s bucket on this one myself and say they won’t survive, but this I know is not true.
In all sectors of retail sales there are brands that require a broader knowledge and skills to sell, specialist products for the passionate consumer in that specific sport is where the retailer has the edge.
Let’s address this elephant in the room, the “Big Box” or internet companies as they are known, they out sell the independent specialist on price, volume and market visibility with the consumer. They stack it high and knock it out at all cost.The way to look at this is twofold, the independent is a speed boat and the online industry is an oil tanker, both are floating on the ocean which I call the consumer, as we know the ocean is ever changing and moving.
A speed boat (you our loving independent) is agile and can change direction, reacting to the ocean’s movements and provide a faster up to date experience with an engaging opportunity that the oil tanker can’t do. The oil tanker is not moveable and has to stay on its set course as it takes far too long to change. Bigger margins set the volumes and set the direction of sales, riding out the ocean no matter what it does good or bad, does that make sense?
To be the speed boat you have to be working with brands that want to give you exclusivity over the internet. This happens with the brands that require knowledgeable sales staff that are passionate about the sport they are retailing in as these products do not sell themselves, if they did you may as well have been a supermarket because this is what milk and bread does!
In many ways the independent has the answer already to his or her success, why did you open a store to begin with?
The answer is always the same “I knew I could provide a better service and experience than the big multinational and the local independent I shop from”. The role is still the same, the online competitor is just a new version of the multinational chain. The issue in many cases is that the independent gives up, stops being proactive and listens to the gossip of the sales reps coming in, a failing of the human condition to live with negativity.
So, the key to survival and growth is get back to the basics, focus on the front doorstep and community outside your store, bring in and commit to the brands that are unique and offer functionality and performance gains over mass generic products that only has a selling feature of colour against its rival.
Build a store that engages the consumer to come in, this can be done with experience days, demo weekends and athlete presentations.
Get your database in order, that’s how the online win, they have your customers email address and other key demographics to be able to segment that list to specific shopping habits, I insist you do the same to your database.
The online sector is sending me birthday cards reminding me to come back and shop, you can go beyond this and make it more personal with a hand-written version.
Above and beyond, stop focusing on margin, I hear all the time “I need more margin to be competitive”.
I challenge you to focus on ASP (Average Selling Price) This next quarter up sell by 20 per cent and then review what this does to your profit at the same margins.
This may require you looking at the brands that are on your sales floor and making changes to stock an alternative brand to the online platforms. This will be the move to the speed boat phase of business planning.
Anyone can give a product away but to up sell a better product that improves the end consumer’s experience and enjoyment of the sport is why you opened the doors to your business in the first place
To truly sell a product for its functionality and benefits it brings the price as a non-factor, when passion pulls on our very heart strings we know the consumer feels the same and we grow our sales on selling what we know will be best for the consumer, that will keep them coming back.
Don’t wait for your speed boat to come in, swim out to it and take control of the ocean!