Perspectives

From The Co-Founders

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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 Dynamic New Era of Start-Ups

We are entering an exceptionally exciting time for retailing. 

Nationwide, the U.S. is experiencing an entrepreneurial surge not seen since the tech boom of the 1990s, said Kenan Fikri, research director for the Economic Innovation Group in Washington, D.C. 

According to an analysis of Census data by EIG, "Through September, Americans have filed a record 1.4 million applications to start new businesses – the most through the third quarter of any year on record."*

Experts suggest it’s being fueled by rising household wealth and shifting life priorities, after millions of Americans were tossed from their jobs during the pandemic. 

Consider these examples from the State of Alaska. As reported by Alex deMarban, "The pandemic pushed these Alaskans to quit their 9-to-5 jobs and start their own businesses. Alaskans who launched businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic say they’ve been rewarded with personal satisfaction they never got from their 9-to-5 jobs. Many say they’re not going back."**

  • "One Anchorage woman started a microgreens business in a garage after her job didn’t give her the flexibility she wanted. Another launched a clothing boutique after she saw friends starting their own companies."
  • "One Anchorage man pursued three business ideas. Only one stuck, but he’s doubled his income from his corporate job."

These new business owners often said they wanted something different in life. “My job wasn’t bad, I just knew I wanted more,” one said. “There are so many people, maybe because of the pandemic, who have started to focus on fulfillment from jobs.”

Hope that one or more of them open a shop near you. The added energy, their new/different retail and merchandising concepts, and the curious shoppers they attract should be welcomed!

The surge of entrepreneurship mirrors the personalities of many Millennials and those born even more recently.  "I want to be my own boss!" "I don't want what happened to my parents to happen to me." "I want a piece of the action." "I don't care what anybody says. I can do it better!"

Meanwhile, existing retailers have been reinventing themselves to survive. The pandemics prompted significant operational changes.

  • The embrace of technology, from websites to e-commerce to social media promotions have re-energized some. 
  • New approaches to staffing and scheduling; new and different kinds of jobs in the business
  • New merchandise assortments, aided by the emergence of online wholesale platforms. Retailers are able to discover unique and special merchandise, and bring it into their local market. 

Retailing always has been a dynamic and changing industry. What propels that change is always changing as well. 

  • The past era, Amazon and technology have been the dominant drivers of change.
  • It now looks to us that the changes defining this next era will be driven by entrepreneurs, many of whom are Millennials.

Don't scoff at them because of their youth, or their retail naïveté. There are millions of them, and they are motivated.

This surge will be powerful, bringing more excitement, newness, and challenges to the retail industry. So much fun!


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The Startup Surge: Business Formation on Pace to Break Record. Daniel Newman, Economic Innovation Group, October 15, 2021.

** The pandemic pushed these Alaskans to quit their 9-to-5 jobs and start their own businesses — and they aren’t looking back. Alex DeMarban, Anchorage Daily News, November 6, 2021.



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