'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.