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

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"Retail is a mirror of society."

Yes, Daylight Savings began a couple weeks ago. But it's not just the time on the clocks that changed; the times themselves have substantially changed. 

Followers of The ROI has heard us assert many times that "Retail is a mirror of society." As we reflect on the first quarter of 2022, we are struck by how much has changed in just those three months. And retailers must adapt – yes, again! – to this rapidly changing environment.

Think about it. Consider the assumptions you made just a few months ago, in late December and early January about 2022. 

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Just one week until Valentine's Day! Are you feeling the love yet?

  • Tumult, rancor and uncertainty abound in the day's news.
  • Big storms are pounding large areas.
  • The pandemic is lingering.

What better time to send a love note to your customers? 

That's right. A Valentine. Just a Valentine. No strings attached! Show your love!

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Heads up. You can take a grim situation and turn it into an advantage. 

Universally, there is a shortage of "good employees." While many will use that as an excuse, it can be a great opportunity for those who seize it.

That's why we paid particular attention to this commentary by Ty West in The Playbook*.

  • "Businesses across a range of industries are struggling with both recruitment and retention, yet surveys and experts continue to show many are unwilling to change their strategies to improve their ability to compete."

And therein lies the opportunity.

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See the forest, not just the trees

Now that we've put a wrap on 2021, and before we really dive into 2022, it's time to catch your breath and reflect on where we are after 2021. 

Perhaps like us you believe that fundamental and enduring changes have occurred; no one can operate on "auto-pilot" anymore. All of us have to learn new processes, and form new habits. What's it called? Oh yes; "embracing change." Lots of it. 

That's why it is a very opportune time, particularly for owners, to have a very active Q&A session with themselves. 

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As we get ready for the New Year, and the post-Holiday season slowdown settles in, here's a positive way for retailers to re-energize and re-focus their entire organization, whether one store or even a hundred. 

We learned this from one of our clients with nearly 50 stores widely scattered over 6 states. Each day, without fail, they would take time for what they called the "Corporate Cheer." 

You will see how it can be a fun addition to any retail business, no matter the size.

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. 

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Just when it seems we can get to the "New Normal" or the "Next Normal," another disruption comes along. 

"There still is so much uncertainty" is the lament, often accompanied by a sigh of weariness. Or resignation. Trying to plan for the Holiday season, or looking ahead to 2022, can seem especially daunting right now.

Occasionally, all of our businesses need to hit "pause;" this is one of those times. 

Recognize that thanks to the pandemics, most everything about running your business has changed. Your merchandise mix; your customers; your staff; your competitors; your suppliers; your landlord; your technology; etcetera. Everything!

  • With all those changes, how could going forward have much resemblance to however you used to do business?
  • And as is always true in retail, the name of the game is adjusting!

We hear it over and over. "Good business citizenship" matters to shoppers. Might Labor Day weekend be a good time to start getting the word out about your citizenship contributions?

Customers vote with their feet, their wallets, and their hearts, and increasingly choose those retailers who "do the right thing", whether it's how they source product, hire and pay employees, reduce environmental impacts, etc.

There are things that independent retailers do day in and day out, without perhaps even realizing how special they are! 

Most retailers we know are "aw shucks" type people. It's charming, but, especially in today's world, your leadership can be a competitive edge! So, why keep it a secret?