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We Need More Rock Stars

Not just any Rock Stars – we need Retail Rock Stars. You know the stores I’m talking about. The ones you would be most disappointed if they closed. The ones who always seem to have traffic and buzz and excitement. The ones you think should probably be in a book or something because of how they merchandise the store, how they treat the customer, how they participate in the community.

Retail Rock Stars change the landscape of a community. They become the focal point of the shopping center, whether downtown, in a strip or in a mall. Retail Rock Stars attract customers, but they also attract other retailers. People want to be around winners.

The best way to grow your business is to decide right now that you are going to be a Retail Rock Star in your community. You are going to be the retailer everyone wants to be like, to locate next to, to build a community around.

How? Decide what a Retail Rock Star store looks like and do it.

Merchandising? Yes! Displays that are fresh and ever changing and new and eye-catching.
Staffing? Yes! A friendly, helpful staff that will bend over backwards to delight your customers. And I mean BEND OVER BACKWARDS.
Products? Yes! The latest products, the newest innovations, the fresh-hot-off-the-presses stuff.

The Retail Rock Star does not have peeling paint on the side of the building, an old sign, a tired window display. The RRS does not have old lighting, faded carpets, and a tired, boring staff. The RRS does not have merchandise older than the store’s pet dog.

The RRS is a learning store, learning new techniques for marketing and merchandising and training. The RRS is a trying store, trying new things, measuring and tweaking.

These are the kinds of retailers I want to help build. These are the kinds of retailers this economy needs to get out of the current funk. These are the kinds of retailers your community needs to grow and attract people and business. Yes, your community needs you to become an RRS!

That is the goal of the new and improved Jackson Retail Success Academy.


Six years ago Scott Fleming, then director of The Enterprise Group in Jackson County challenged a full alphabet of organizations with the task of supporting and keeping indie retailers in town. From that meeting the Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce (GJCC), South Central Michigan Works (SCMW), Jackson DDA, Jackson Local First (JLF), Midtown Association of Jackson, Small Business Technology & Development Center (SBTDC), City of Jackson Economic Development, and The Enterprise Group developed the Jackson Retail Success Academy (JRSA).

JRSA was designed to help start-ups and new retailers with less than five years under their belt get the tools they needed for retail success. For the last five years we have been doing exactly that. Well, kinda…
A number of retailers that took the class closed. They found out while doing the math that their business model was flawed from the get-go and there wasn’t enough market in Jackson to make it. Others were just too deep in trouble to dig out of it. A handful of class members took it to the next level, but for some, the next level was to merely go from struggling to surviving.

Most importantly, we weren’t accomplishing the real goal – to turn Jackson into an indie retail haven, a place where indie retailers would not just survive but thrive. We kept looking for struggling retailers to take the class, super small retailers, the minnows in our pond. We were hoping to grow them into fish.

We were focused on the wrong crowd. Winners attract winners. We needed to spend more time trying to grow whales, not fish. We needed to create more Rock Stars.

Time to refocus.

The new and improved JRSA is starting over with a new focus. We are looking for the whales, the established indie retailers who want to go from surviving to thriving. The curriculum is pared down to the essentials of Rock Stardom. The instruction is updated to include thriving in this most challenging new era of retail where all the rules you knew before have changed.

This is not to say that start-ups and newbies are not welcome. They are. Gladly. The information is only as good as the effort you put toward using it.Anyone willing to put forth the effort will get the results they want. But my focus for JRSA will be to go whale-hunting.

The bait is pretty good.

-Phil Wrzesinskiwww.PhilsForum.com

PS The beauty of the new and improved JRSA is that it is easier to take on the road.  If you have a handful of retailers in your town that are on the verge of Rock Staardom, but just need that push to get over the edge, get in touch. I can cram all 20 hours of instruction into two days that, if your head doesn’t explode, will rock your world.

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