The independent retailers are often called Specialty Retailers because rather than carry a wide swath of departments, we specialize in one or two general niches.
Specialty was also a way of saying we offered a little more in the way of a shopping experience, something special that the discounters couldn’t offer, that the department stores couldn’t match.
Our stores truly were Special.
- Special products not found everywhere.
- Special services not matched by our competitors.
- Special experiences enhanced by our staff.
Of course, those last two things cost money. Thanks to the margins on the first item, our special products, we could afford them.
But those margins are disappearing fast. The product that used to be found only in specialty stores is all over the Internet. Some of it is even on the shelves of gas stations and pharmacies. While the cost of those goods continues to rise, the retail price holds steady or shrinks.
Without that margin many specialty retailers are finding it hard to afford those services that made them special. But to compete, we have to hold the line. We have to find ways to keep our stores Special.
The best way to remain Special is to focus on your staff, on the frontline folks who make or break the experience for the customer.
- Teach your staff how to connect with your customers and build relationships.
- Empower your staff to solve problems immediately and effectively.
- Encourage your staff to be creative and unique and memorable.
- Allow your staff to play and have fun.
It starts with hiring great people. It moves forward by constantly teaching and training them, never getting complacent.
Whatever you do, don’t give up being special. Start by making your staff special and the other stuff will fall into line. And don’t worry about the special products and lost margin. This is just a cycle we’re going through. They’ll be back soon enough.
PS In the meantime, there are some simple things you can do to make your prices look better and help you move some more merchandise. Check out my free eBook Pricing for Profit.