Add your store's personality to in-person shopping | Spring's the perfect time | What really matters to  lenders, vendors, and landlords | "Am I running this business...Or is it running me?!"
Wednesday, March 27, 2024

From The Co-Founders

Patricia M. Johnson & Richard F. Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists, LLC  •  Retail Turnaround Experts

"In Person Shopping Keeps Getting Worse"

That was the headline in a recent business page editorial. And the writer was able to cite chapter and verse of all-too-prevalent lousy shopping experiences for customers. 
  • "More American stores are doing with fewer employees and many have locked items up to keep them from being pilfered."
  • "The retail industry slashed head count in 2020 and has never returned to pre-pandemic staffing levels."
  • Meanwhile, "store employees are spending more time fulfilling online orders, leaving them less time for helping [in-store] customers."
  • Then this warning: "Head-count reductions will become even more tempting in the quarters ahead, as the economy dampens consumers' appetite for shopping."
As noted by a Wharton Business School professor, "retailers frequently reduce headcount because 'you immediately see the savings in payroll but you don't necessarily know what damage that does to the top line.'" Of course, the retailers that professor is referencing are the Big Guys who have to satisfy their investors every quarter.

As independent retailers, you have advantages that are unavailable to the Big Guys: 
  • You answer to the customer, not to the investors.
  • That means you can showcase what makes your specialty store special.
First, a reminder: "Specialty" retail is not a function of price point; it is not reserved for luxury retailers. Your specialized product knowledge, your merchandise selection, your assortments, the shopping experience you offer – all those matter, whether you are selling tires or books or furniture or apparel.

What else sets your stores apart from the Big Guys is, of course, your nimbleness. Your recognition that "Times have changed, and so have we." 
  • Want to bring some pop-up shops into your space? Do it!
  • Or an "exchange" with another nearby merchant, with each displaying some of your products in their space for a couple weeks? Make it happen!
  • Or, a series of "theme weeks" showcasing the major countries from which your products are sourced with music, rotating slide shows, etc? What are you waiting for? Someone's permission??
Get your staff involved; they will have lots of intriguing ideas. Make it fun!

Most of all, seize the opportunity! Be the store in your community that puts the personality back into in-person shopping.

When customers are put off by the hassle of shopping at the Big Guys, welcome those customers with open arms. They'll love it!
Tips • Tactics • Strategic Insights • Commentary
Want more of the strategic retailing observations from Outcalt and Johnson?  Prior commentary From The Co-Founders  is available under PERSPECTIVES on The ROI site.  ➡️

Spring Cleaning – With a Purpose

Ahh, springtime! A time for new beginnings, fresh starts.

Spring also is a time for "Spring Cleaning" – that time of year to spruce up, clean up, fix up. Sigh! Another chore.

This year, here's how to break out of that another-to-do-task rut.

It starts by seeing your stores the way your shoppers see them. Then, with that awareness, the spruce up, clean up, fix up tasks can actually focus on attracting and appealing to your very best customers. 

And we have the (free!) tool to make all this happen.
  • First, check out this article on The ROI site: Rating Your Store From a Shopper's Perspective. See the 25 "retail is detail" items that do matter to shoppers.  
  • Then, use The ROI's Store Rater tool (either on paper or online) to rate your store, to give it a grade (just like shoppers do every day!)
  • Then see what the tally sheet shows as the 25 items are regrouped into 5 major categories: First Impressions; The Basics; Merchandise; Marketing; Theater of Retail.  All kinds of new insights are likely to emerge. 
Plus, it's easy to involve your staff, which can motivate them all the more as they are part of "why?" certain things need to change. 

Nothing like some Springtime fresh perspective, is there?

You – and your shoppers – will be delighted with the results. 
Check Out Your Stores
Retail Turnaround Experts

Two Tell-All Metrics About Your Business

Shouldn't You Know What "They" Know?

Let's say you're feeling better about your business. It's no longer losing money. Sales are inching upwards. You're ready to move past that "hunker down" mentality of recent years.

But, you discover that your vendors, or your bank, or your landlord do not share your enthusiasm!  They say, "Glad your sales are better, but...." Or, "Our credit department is still reviewing it."

"What's with that?", you wonder. "How could they NOT want more business from me? I've been a darn good customer!"
"Is there something they know that I don't know?"

Could be.

Here's what your Balance Sheet is telling outsiders - in nanoseconds! - about your business:
  • Will you be able to pay your bills on time?
  • Is your business getting financially stronger, or weaker?
This informative TOPICAL TUESDAYS Webinar of the Week, led by Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt, Co-Founders of The Retail Owners Institute, will show how you can know that for yourself. 

Shouldn't you know what they know?! 
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Let other retailers (and those who care about retailing) know about The ROI. 
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The Retail Industry's #1 Need Right Now | What Really Drives Sales? | How To Reduce Growing Pains | Dependent on Independent Retailers?
Wednesday, March 6, 2024

From The Co-Founders

Patricia M. Johnson & Richard F. Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists, LLC  •  Retail Turnaround Experts

We've Been Wondering...

What's the #1 thing that the retail industry needs now more than anything else?

More towns. 

That's right, more towns and villages. Look, towns tend to be more residential, even slower and more relaxed. Even the word conjures up warmth. 

And towns, and the people who love towns, are a mecca for the vibrancy of retailing. Think about it: the retail industry needs more towns!

And it's already trending in that direction. Macys, Whole Foods, Nordstrom Rack, and Walmart have announced rolling out small formats, seeking locations closer to residential areas. They recognize that's where their customers are and will prefer to be. 

Conversely, there are way too many cities. Every city is struggling with half-empty medium and tall buildings envisioned back when nobody had heard nor respected the influence that the internet would have.

Now, many cities must reinvent themselves into, perhaps, a cluster of separate "towns." A downsizing, yes, but actually a realization that "Bigger may not be better, but better is better!"

Clearly, "city" has lost much of its appeal, especially with the traditional office workers. To recapture some appeal, cities must focus on their residential and tourist markets, especially with unique destination retailers. But this trend may be slow to materialize.

There's three quarters of this century remaining, The retail industry and all of society would benefit greatly if many more towns flourished, and many out-of-date cities dissolved, or more likely, shrank to a better-is-better size. Customers rule, and they want towns and villages.

Seventy-five years should do it. (That allows time for the vast amount of zoning changes that will be needed in today's cities and towns to allow for the new mix of people and land uses heading their way.) But the opportunities for retailers have never been greater!

That's what we've been thinking about. How about you?
Tips • Tactics • Strategic Insights • Commentary
Want more of the strategic retailing observations from Outcalt and Johnson?  Prior commentary From The Co-Founders  is available under PERSPECTIVES on The ROI site.  ➡️

Dynamics of Retail Growth 

The Four (Only!) Ways to Grow

For retailers, there are Four (Only!) Ways to Grow, based on the two fundamental variables for managing growth.
  • One is your Merchandise;
  • The other is your Customers.
The chart above shows how those intersect (see a more detailed discussion here on The ROI site.)

Why does this matter? Each of these four fundamental Growth Modes demands different amounts and kinds of changes.

Change = "stress." Even "good change" involves added stress.

Change affects – "stresses" – all of your resources. Financial capital, and especially human capital, will be impacted.

Go here for perspective on how to reduce your stress as you grow your business.
Reduce Growing Pains
Great for Trade Associations • Buying Groups • Chambers of Commerce • Suppliers • SBDCs • Other Organizations
Now, here's an easy, low-cost, no-risk way for your organization to help your retailers help themselves.

SPONSOR their unlimited Member Access Privileges at The Retail Owners Institute.
 As a Sponsor, you unlock the gates to the entirety of The ROI.


How To Find Your Best – Most Profitable! – Customer


The "Retail Strata:G® Wheel." What's that??

It's stuff you think about and work on all the time. It "connects the dots" for you. And is it ever powerful!  

This proprietary concept from The ROI merges strategic marketing planning with strategic financial planning.

It's the cause-effect connection between your best customers and your financial management. Or, in other words, it substantiates how marketing and sales plans "pencil out". 

This lively – and free! – webinar with Pat Johnson & Dick Outcalt, Co-Founders of The Retail Owners Institute, will
  • introduce this strategic way of thinking, managing, and "connecting the dots"
  • walk through the step-by-step process for you to turn your existing customer data into useful management information.
The Retail Strata:G® Business Wheel, developed by the Co-Founders, is exclusive to The Retail Owners Institute. It has helped thousands of retailers sleep better at night!

This is a fast-paced, fun session. Be sure to take advantage!
Sharing is good!
Let other retailers (and those who care about retailing) know about The ROI. 
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