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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Retailers are in the driver's seat. Don't squander your clout!

Yes, we know. Owning a retail business these days is one flexibility test after another. And there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. 

In the United States, one of the most widespread impacts of the virus is uncertainty. With no end in sight. It is the virus that is in charge. As the president of Alaska Airlines noted, "We don't know what the future looks like."*

But the fact remains, whomever is selling to the ultimate consumer has leverage. Might that be you?

In recent weeks, we have had phone conversations with a wide variety of retailers. A common thread in those conversations was the discovery by the retailers that they were no longer totally at the mercy of vendors, landlords, lenders, or the kind. For some, quite a surprising realization!

  • A retailer located in the upper Hudson Valley has always been kind of at the mercy of one very major vendor. It seems that a month or so ago, that vendor put additional pressure on this retailer, and was met with a surprising reaction. "Stick it in your ear" is as polite as that conversation went. The retailer has the customers; the vendor does not. 
  • A woman in a small town in West Virginia put up a large white tent and started promoting off-price merchandise. It went so well we've assumed that she was able to muscle her vendors into supplying merchandise with a guaranteed sale agreement. The vendors have a big problem: how to liquidate inventory. She has the customers. 
  • There's a startup retailer in New Jersey who has been wrestling (like so many retailers) with his landlord. We like to think that he came to the same conclusion we had; the landlord needs this retailer's vitality more than the savvy retailer needed this particular landlord. 

All that is critically important to keep in mind as you deal with your vendor's sales reps, very anxious to meet their sales goals.

Their companies are focused on the larger picture. Anticipating that 2020 will have significant losses, these companies recognize the importance of maintaining customers for 2021 and beyond (like your stores) over maintaining margins this year.  

In other words, vendors now are more willing to be flexible. Your sales rep won't be volunteering that info. You may have to insist, but it can be done. 

Moreover, you have more choices available today. With the rise of online wholesale marketplaces, there are many more ways for you to acquire merchandise, with smaller minimums, or guaranteed sales, or access to unique products, and more. 

The constant theme is that vendors, landlords, and others now are much more willing to be flexible. You, the retailer, have more control than ever before.

Yes, you are in the driver's seat! Don't squander your clout.

You have the most precious commodity of all: the ultimate consumer. 


Alaska Airlines President Ben Minicucci navigates unprecedented turbulence. Andrew McIntosh, Puget Sound Business Journal, July 27, 2020. 

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