From The Co-Founders


Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts

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See the forest, not just the trees

Now that we've put a wrap on 2021, and before we really dive into 2022, it's time to catch your breath and reflect on where we are after 2021. 

Perhaps like us you believe that fundamental and enduring changes have occurred; no one can operate on "auto-pilot" anymore. All of us have to learn new processes, and form new habits. What's it called? Oh yes; "embracing change." Lots of it. 

That's why it is a very opportune time, particularly for owners, to have a very active Q&A session with themselves. 


Just when it seems we can get to the "New Normal" or the "Next Normal," another disruption comes along. 

"There still is so much uncertainty" is the lament, often accompanied by a sigh of weariness. Or resignation. Trying to plan for the Holiday season, or looking ahead to 2022, can seem especially daunting right now.

Occasionally, all of our businesses need to hit "pause;" this is one of those times. 

Recognize that thanks to the pandemics, most everything about running your business has changed. Your merchandise mix; your customers; your staff; your competitors; your suppliers; your landlord; your technology; etcetera. Everything!

  • With all those changes, how could going forward have much resemblance to however you used to do business?
  • And as is always true in retail, the name of the game is adjusting!

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Think about it. Shoppers, employees, people everywhere today have, in the back of their minds, one defining thought. 

No matter where they work, where they shop, where they live, where they travel, where they eat, they always wonder "How safe will I be?"


As we follow economic indicators that particularly affect retailers, our primary focus always is consumer confidence. And the reports coming out this week give us pause. 

  • "The Consumer Sentiment Index fell by 13.5% from July, to a level that was just below the April 2020 low of 71.8," notes Richard Curtin, chief economist for the University of Michigan's Surveys of Consumers.*
  • "The extraordinary surge in negative economic assessments reflects an emotional response, mainly from dashed hopes that the pandemic would soon end."

The highly transmissible Delta variant and the vaccine hesitancy of many have changed the momentum. Covid fatigue is back. This affects consumers. 

And with it, more challenges for retailers. Decisions and policies may be needed regarding vaccinations, both for your staff and your shoppers. Meanwhile, consumers are likely taking another pause. Will schools reopen? Will offices reopen? 

So, what's a retailer to do? What you always do: deal with it! 

Being the owner of a business always has pluses and minuses. Usually the pluses outnumber the minuses. But maybe not so much right now.

If you feel that way, you've got a lot of company. Ugh! But hang on; maybe we have a perspective that you'll find useful and timely. It's called "Misery loves company!"

First, consider where we are. Early July, just past a nice Fourth of July Holiday weekend. The summer and early fall look promising, both for getting "back to normal" and for some leisure hours in the hammock. Nice, eh?

But there are those dark clouds out there. 

For some time, conventional wisdom has characterized independent retailers as "technology laggards."

Not that they are Luddites; it's just that they regarded retail technology as a major expense, especially in human capital. They often were cautious, even skeptical, about the promises of new technology being pitched to them.

When the pandemics arrived, many retailers responded rapidly and smartly. In scramble mode, some crammed five years of technology adoption into five months!

Now, as the lockdown restrictions recede, the conventional wisdom eagerly suggests that consumers of all ages will continue to rely on online shopping and other technology. 

Hmm. Let's consider that "conventional wisdom" a bit more closely. 

This is, after all, The Retail OWNERS Institute. We long have specialized in alerting, coaxing, and applauding retail owners worldwide. 

Today's message is a major heads-up. 

Keeping pace with the relentless changes in retailing has never been easy. Retailers know that constant adjustments are demanded. 

Then, the three pandemics of 2020 happened: COVID; the economic meltdown; the social unrest.  And life changed modestly or enormously for almost everyone, including owners of retail businesses.


As we emerge from the pandemics, many retailers are eager to grow. (How's that for an understatement?!)

  • For some, that simply means having a better year than 2019 (because 2020 was such a disaster), and they relish having survived.
  • Others are looking to expand by adding locations, whether by acquisition of existing stores, or taking advantage of vacated retail sites. 
  • Still others are focused on expanding their newly-established e-commerce capabilities. 
  • And, for some, still other imaginative ways.

Trade shows are opening up with great success and eager buyers. Landlords are eager to fill vacancies, and in many instances, to cut deals. Vendors are eager to quit thinking about supply chain problems and start selling their merchandise, especially at trade shows. Plus, the continued growth and expansion of online wholesale marketplaces makes far more product available to retailers. 

Then there is the access to capital. Lots of money is floating around out there

All in all, it creates an environment of exuberance. "Seize the opportunity" is the rallying cry. Indeed, for some retailers, FOMO – that Fear Of Missing Out – is pushing them to make some major decisions.