Major retailers are crumbling across the country in the “retail apocalypse.” Once-prominent retailers like Macy’s, and J. Crew are closing storefronts, laying off employees, and, in the case of Toys ‘R’ Us, filing for bankruptcy. Influential celebrities and their entrepreneurial endeavors aren’t immune to the casualties, either. DASH, the apparel boutique operated by Kim, Kourtney, and Khloé Kardashian, closed their two stores in Los Angeles and Miami on June 1.
Even with all of these horror stories, small business owners continue to see the glass half full. According to Capital One’s Small Business Growth Index survey, small businesses anticipate 2018 to be a profitable year. Sixty-two percent polled responded that they feel current business conditions are “excellent,” with 51% anticipating an improved financial position within the next six months.
What are the driving forces helping small business storefronts to thrive instead of simply survive? Here’s a look at the techniques brick and mortar shops are utilizing to stand out and stay open with their consumer base.
1. Make your storefront a destination.
Think about the last time you were at an Apple Store. Most locations tend to be big, airy spaces with plenty of tables full of laptops and tablets to play around with. There are no long lines, not even at the Genius Bar where customers can meet with specialists to repair their products. And the store is always packed no matter what time you arrive.
Going shopping at the Apple Store is not seen as a chore, but a destination.
Think about all of the ways you can position your storefront as a destination to better craft an experience for the customer.
- Can you eliminate waiting in line at checkout?
- Hire and train experts to thoughtfully interact with customers about your offerings instead of existing just to sell products?
- Can you offer additional incentives to customers stopping by?
- Help them open up a package and test out a product before they buy it?
- Create a custom demo or creation bar?
If you can do that, you’ll be able to elevate your shop’s in-store experience into becoming a community destination.
2. Reinvest in your customer relationships.
Whenever news of a retail apocalypse spreads, some businesses might think that the only solution is to bring on new customers. It’s never a bad thing to have new clientele, but it’s equally as important to remember your existing customers and what your relationship is like together.
You’ve taken the time to turn your storefront into a destination and developed authority within your niche. Now, focus on the ways you can engage existing customers in ways that are personalized to their needs and develop strong rapports with new consumers.
You might find yourself leveraging existing data in order to build persona profiles, interacting with customers through social media and encouraging them to follow your handles, and establishing rewards programs customized for frequent shoppers.
3. Emphasize your niche.
Remember when we would hide the parts of ourselves that made us different from everyone else in grade school to fit in with the cool kids? That never felt good. It’s nice to know that the older you get (and, subsequently, the kind of business you start up), the part that differentiates you is ultimately what endears you to consumers.
Let’s take a moment to talk about a small business called Central Watch. Located in New York City, the shop sells and repairs vintage and luxury watches. What may have seemed, on the surface, to be a dying art has actually proven to be quite profitable. In a 2017 interview with the New York Post, owner Steve Kizel noted that this may have been due to craftsmen dropping out of the timepiece repair business, allowing for a greater demand of Central Watch’s services. Additionally, Kizel was helping the business stand out and get noticed online by launching a YouTube video series about watch repair.
If you’re a niche retailer, don’t view your lack of universal appeal as a setback. Instead, look at all the ways your business can grow within its category while remaining unique. Focus on how you can position your small business as an expert within its niche and build brand loyalty in the process. A retail apocalypse is actually a great opportunity for businesses to defy and break the norms— in their own special way.
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