Re-Inventing Retail

From the Co-Founders of The Retail Owners Institute.
Tips | Tactics | Insights on the Business of Retailing.

Retailers: Unleash your imagination! Bookmark

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As we often discuss, retailing is a very dynamic industry, constantly changing and evolving. To be successful, retailers must pass frequent flexibility tests. So we paid particular attention to this recent headline in the New York Times*: "The freshest ideas are in small grocery stores." 

"As big supermarkets struggle," continued the article, "a new crop of local grocers are innovating to serve niche audiences and advance social causes." 

Among the examples cited is the Farmhouse Market in New Prague, Minnesota (population around 7,600). This grocery store, inspired by a nearby 24-hour fitness center, is basically non-staffed.

"These rural communities need new business models," explains the owner. 

  • • Members pay $99 a year and use a key card to open the door. They can shop anytime they want.
  • • The system runs on a series of iPads and other devices. Lights are motion-activated, and checkout is done on a tablet.
  • • Local farmers, beekeepers and other suppliers have cards, too, so they can restock their supplies at midnight if they want.
  • • The owners price items from home, and text orders to suppliers.
  • • And the store is not completely unmanned. It is open to the public nine hours a week, with an actual cashier.

Yes, a decidedly new "business model" – that is proving to be successful. Food for thought for other retailers?

Or, consider the Open Book shop in Wigtown, Scotland.** Located a couple hours drive south of Glasgow, Wigtown is considered "Scotland's book town," with more than 10 bookstores for its 1,000 residents.

When faced with the prospect that one of those shops was about to close, a novel (ahem) solution to keep it operating was instituted.

  • • The Open Book is now part of a unique Airbnb "cultural tourism" listing: for $55/night, guests stay in an upstairs apartment and work at the shop for free.
  • • As the "bookseller" they operate the shop, make recommendations to the customers, and process all transactions. 
  • • They can change the window displays, business hours and even the prices.  

And get this. This "bookshop holiday" is booked up through 2020!


It's a fact: Independent retailers always have been imaginative, risk taking, entrepreneurial, and experimental. Shoppers worldwide need them now more than ever.

Many retailers, maybe even in your community, are sensing the opportunities that appeal to shoppers and fill a niche in an innovative way. We encourage you to be one of them! 

What ideas are between your ears? Or between the ears of your staff? Let's get cracking!


* Kim Severson, The freshest ideas are in small grocery stores, New York Times, July 31, 2018.

** Unique Airbnb is a book-lovers dream come true. CBS News, January 13, 2018.

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About The Co-Founders

Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt, The Co-Founders of The Retail Owners Institute®, have been called "The Zen masters of retail finance!"

Since 1999, they have been assembling  their proprietary content into a unique self-help website. The Retail Owners Institute is an unmatched resource that assists retailers worldwide with basic financial training, assistance and easy-to-use tools.

Their engaging and empowering how-to resources about the financial levers in retailing are informative, fun(!), and retailer-friendly. Their promise: "Everyone will 'get it'!"

Pat and Dick are recognized experts in strategic retailing. Working only as a team – Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists, LLC – they have been consulting, publishing, and speaking professionally throughout North America since 1990.

They focus exclusively on retail, or wherever retail is involved. They work with CEOs, CFOs, boards and owners of retail operations, as well as manufacturers or wholesalers expanding into retail. And they also are Retail Turnaround Experts.

Since 1999, empowering retailers and store owners to "Turn on your financial headlights!"