Monday, October 8, 2012

Turns out, small stores are the future.

There is a superficial, but intriguing slideshow over on Business Insider from Retailmania about retail mega-trends.

It sparked some agreement in me, and some reservations.

The following are some of their points, either quoted or paraphrased, in both cases I use quotation marks.

***"Unrest is the new norm."  

It was ever so, but it has accelerated mightily in my time in business.  One of the hardest things for me to understand is that I would never "arrive."  That I would never reach stasis.  That as soon as one trend settled in, another would  come along.

***"Survival is a plan for a decade, not next season."  

Again, this has been true for awhile.  I used to make plans for a year, then 5 years, now.... 10 years.

***"Local might be the new global." 

 More or less asserts that big boxes will become obsolete.  I think we're already seeing this.  (I've always maintained the big boxes are ponzi schemes.)

People are going to want uniqueness or authenticity or personal service or knowledge or any number of things a small store can provide.  They want atmosphere and real people.

On the other hand, if your main draw is price and selection, online can beat you every time.

***"As transport costs rise, local brands will challenge global brands."

  This is one of those longer term points that I don't think completely apply to my store.  I'm looking a decade down the road, and I'm not sure this will filter down significantly in that time.

***"Smaller stores will grow, because of lower investment, closeness to the market, and high sales per foot.  Plus energy efficiency."

As someone who has been forced to operate out of a smaller space than is ideal, I can testify that you become very efficient with the smaller space and you find you can do more than you think you can.

The big boxes are making noises about becoming smaller -- which I think is ironic, since a smaller big box store is -- a store.  You know, the kind they put out of business.  So they'll be cutting their selection and volume discounting -- but still not have the above "uniqueness, authenticity, personal service, and knowledge" I mentioned above.

Good luck with that.

***"Social media is just another layer.  It is not the holy grail.  You still need return on investment."


Here's where I start to diverge from the main theme of the presentation.  I think all marketing schemes are overhyped, and sometimes even counter-productive.  I think social media is so much noise now, that it is drowning out the message.  I don't trust online reviews whatsoever, and I think other people will eventually come to the same conclusion.

This article more or less says it's important to have a real store atmosphere that works, and the social media will just reflect that.  This idea is where I hang my hat.

***"Technology will take over."

Here's were I really diverge.  Yes, technology will take over.  But not for everyone and not immediately, and I'm pretty sure the two worlds will co-exist for as long as I'm in business.

In fact, I'll maintain that the more technology takes over, the more people will value a store that does it the old fashioned way.  This goes against every bit of advice -- but my personal observation is that it is truer than the experts know.

***"In store experience will be more crucial than ever." 

This is what I've been saying.  Take out the 'social media' and 'technology' revolutions, and you still -- at the base of it all, need to have a interesting store, with product people want, at affordable prices, with atmosphere and knowledge and quirkiness.

So...really, in some ways, nothing has changed at all.

No comments: