Last updateWed, 19 Feb 2020 12am

Survival: Looking to the future

The holiday season is over and you are either rejoicing loudly or crying in your coffee at the results your establishment achieved! The retail industry in general took some major end-of-year hits: Macy’s has already said that it’s planning to close 100 stores, or about 15% of its fleet, in 2017. Sears is shuttering at least 30 Sears and Kmart stores by April, and additional closures are expected to be announced soon. CVS also said this month that it’s planning to shut down 70 locations.

Mall stores like Aeropostale, which filed for bankruptcy in May, American Eagle, Chicos, The Limited, Hancock Fabrics, Sports Authority, Finish Line, Men’s Wearhouse, Office Depot/Office Max and The Children’s Place are also in the midst of multi-year plans to close stores, or have already closed all their stores. It is estimated that another 400 of the remaining 2000 existing major malls in the U.S.A. will be shutting their doors in the next couple of years.

Since all of these retail stars have been around for decades, a sense of pessimistic panic is a bit understandable. Is a dismal future for brick and mortar retail a certainty? Most emphatically not!!

Are there huge challenges ahead? Definitely! Are jewelry stores destined to go the way of horse-powered transportation or table-centered juke boxes? Most assuredly NOT! 

There are, however, major changes ahead for all of us. If you are thinking that because you had a 2016 Holiday Season that ended in the black, all must be well, I strongly urge you to consider several things. If you are sobbing in your Starbucks, your very survival depends upon your willingness/ability to act (immediately) on the same several things:

While Grandma is a Great Old Gal, even she doesn’t shop in the same old, tried-and-true (trite and tired) way she did thirty years ago (or twenty or even ten years ago).  Therefore: A major overhaul of your store’s entire concept is way overdue!

It can be done and it should be done, but you just might have to change the way you have been doing things up to this point.

Job 1: Get really clear on what your store does well and what it needs to improve upon.  Take a careful and unbiased look at everything your store is and does!

Exactly why does your store exist? 

What does your store offer that the customer cannot obtain elsewhere for a cheaper price, higher quality, greater convenience, or “funner” experience? What precisely will attract them to give up the comfort of their couch or tech device to get their sweet selves physically into your store

Avoid nice platitudes, like to provide a quality product at a fair price or new product lines. (While great, those are not going to get potential customers out of their jammies and onto your sales floor.)

Seriously, if you cannot answer this question, it is time to talk with members of the younger generation! Millennials, while they seem foreign, are aging out of their immature phases and must be considered as a driving force for any business that intends to remain viable! Further, persons born in this century are nearing the completion of their “formal education” years, and as such will be forming the next group of buyers, so if you are agonizing over this process, their views are important as well.

This is all about relevance! If you cannot offer your intended customers the products and services they need or want in a manner they can comprehend, you have literally just fast-tracked yourself to the fate of Montgomery Wards, Circuit City, Woolworths or even Ben Franklin (and I don’t mean the historical figure!)

Job 2: Carefully examine your store’s statistics on what is selling and what is beyond its ‘Best Sell By’ Date. 

Exactly what is your customer buying? 

What merchandise is truly your bread and butter? What merchandise does your store offer that is totally irresistible to your customers, and who’s buying it? If your best sellers are truly the same products that your grandfather sold in the 1960s, either your customer base relates more to that era than the one in which we live today or your products are in absolute need of updating. Now, while Grandma is still a Great Old Gal, I’m betting that her product preferences have progressed into this century. (If your store really is an antique store, disregard these comments). While it’s important to satisfy the product desires of Grandma, I’m thinking that if you want a viable future for your store, the major product force must appeal to younger tastes!

To survive into the future, your store’s focus will be best served by consolidating product assortments to fewer but more highly desired products. Simplifying product offerings creates a more efficient and adaptable niche for your customers

Job 3: Professionalism of the staff is a must! Train, Use, Develop and Utilize creative practices to completely modernize the shopping experience for your customer.

Precisely how can you make the purchasing process as quick and streamlined for your customer as is technologically possible? How can you facilitate the ease of shopping, selecting and completing the acquisition of products for your customer? Speed and convenience are critical aspects of the shopping experience. How can you be flexible in your customer’s behalf so that they come away from the experience of being in your store knowing that they must return to this wonderful store for future purchases?

Do your people absolutely believe and strive to make every customer a friend? Customer loyalty is the key to your future. If 65% of your sales come from 30% of your customer base, it makes sense that you have to do everything possible to expand your customer base.

I have said it a thousand times, when a customer comes into your store for the first time they are not looking for your merchandise. They are looking for a place and a person from whom to buy the merchandise. Only through developing a relationship with your customers can you insure your success in the future. Are your people great listeners, do they hear and react to the personal information customers reveal? Are they capturing contact information with permission for follow-up? If you think a friendship is developed through a one-time visit to your store you are sadly mistaken. We have to cultivate the relationship through follow-up, offering free cleaning and checking, inviting customers back in for special events and occasions. Only with time and really getting to know your customers will they consider you their friend in the business.

You have to have a staff that truly embraces the concept of building their own business within your business. Anything short and you will be leaving the door open to your customers leaving you and leaving a tremendous amount of sales and profits on the table. In other words, the days of the retail jewelry clerk are in the past, the retail jewelry professional is a must for today’s retail jewelry climate.

Can you hire a live musician to provide an enhanced experience? (Perhaps a harpist?) Can you serve appetizers to satisfy hungers? How can you effectively integrate your merchandise displays with fun aspects of society? 

Upgrading all the 5 P’s - Personnel, Product, Presentation, Physical Plant and Promotional aspects of your store is vitally important to your survival! 

To complete the enhanced shopping experience, the utmost integrity of your store policies and of your staff is fundamental and needs to be obvious throughout every component of the shopping adventure. Customer service is the demonstration of your commitment to your customer and your business.

Your staff must be completely and thoroughly trained to guide each customer through their purchase. Each person’s training must be designed to create the unique relationship between your store and your merchandise that causes each customer to believe that your store is the only place that can adequately meet their shopping needs!

Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is President of IAS Training. Huisken has authored several books and training manuals on sales and  produces a Weekly Sales Training Meeting video series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight” For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at 800-248-7703 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Visit his website at www.iastraining.com.