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

A few years ago we were on a PBS news show about retailing's ups and downs. Several months later, one of us ran into a teacher of one of our kids. That person excitedly mentioned having seen us on TV, saying "I didn't know you knew so much about retailing." (Yep, known just as someone's parent, right?)

But then this very well-educated person said the key thing: "I never knew there was so much to be known about retailing!"

Well, that incident happened a few years ago when retailing was perhaps more understandable, even more predictable. Alas, those days are history! Today, nothing in retailing is quite as understandable or as predictable as before. Or as manageable!


Many times during 2020 we spoke of "disruption with a capital D!"

And now, more than a third of the way through 2021, that Disruption with a capital D shows no signs of abating. Instead, it just keeps morphing (not unlike the Covid strains that keep emerging....) 

But the disruption that we see emerging is in the attitude,  deportment, and psyche of Millennials, and the many people who are now acting like Millennials. This is showing up in the attitude of shoppers as well as employees. 


As we noted last week, retailing is being affected by different patterns of seasonality. The old timing patterns for ordering, seasons, and events no longer apply. New "Rhythms of Retail" must be established by all retailers.

So it was with great interest that we read a blog post about Pop-Up Retail: Not Just for Start-Ups.*  It featured results from a recent study out of the UK suggesting that "the pop-up retail sector is growing at 12.3% per year. And the U.S. pop-up industry has grown to approximately $10 billion in sales."

Usually at this time of year, we would be encouraging you to remember that "the lull" is about to arrive. 

That is, that time span from Black Friday/Cyber Monday through early December is typically much slower for retailers. 

And then, come December 10th or so, the Christmas sprint begins! 

Ahh yes. That was then. And this is, well, 2020. 


Amidst the fog of uncertainty of 2020, retailers have experienced a breath-taking acceleration of time, as an array of new-to-retailers technologies have now become almost commonplace. 

2020 has put an end to the days of retailers being technology laggards. We applaud the resilience and adaptability of retailers who did embrace change and especially technology during 2020. Retailers definitely rose to the occasion!

And yet, again, the virus is surging. Even as promising announcements are made about vaccines, the threat that COVID-19 continues to pose to the survival of local businesses is ominous, and substantial.

We agree! This is so not fair!

But, who is up to that challenge? Independent retailers who are merchants supreme.


Maybe you heard it. 

We heard this weekend a resounding sigh of relief from around the world. The election has ended. 

For all of us, this passage invites fresh optimism, a fresh resilience, and a fresh commitment to the important things in life.

As retailers, one of those important things is your operation. 

The situation suggests that now is the perfect time to reexamine your competitive edge.


Is 2020 continuing to wear you down? No surprise. And no shame in that!

Retailers are among the most optimistic folks we know. But the relentlessness of the disruptions and in some cases tragedies of the three pandemics – the virus, the economic meltdown, and the civil unrest – followed by the wildfires in the West and the hurricanes in the Southeast, now compounded by the uncertainties of national election. Oh, and then there's the impending flu season. And... And...

It IS a lot. And it feels as if there is no relief in sight. But maybe there is. 


COVID-19 thumbs/SMB-Tech.jpeg

For retailers, the uncertainties caused by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are unrelenting. 

  • "'It seems that social distancing mandates won’t be the only thing keeping crowds down at businesses moving forward,' said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at 'A significant number of Americans plan to stay away on their own accord.'” 1

So, what should we do with this additional "found time," waiting for the customers? That's a question we CAN answer!

As you are sorting out how best to reopen, we encourage you to be bold about embracing technology. Not just a POS system upgrade with better e-commerce capability. There's much more that warrants your attention. 

There's a whole alphabet of resources out there, already being embraced by many: ML (machine learning); AI (artificial intelligence); AR (augmented reality), QR (Quick Response matrix barcodes). All enabling chatbots, robots, digital displays and much else to become "smarter" and more applicable.