Last updateWed, 25 Mar 2020 1pm

The future is here! Will you be a part of it or a part of history?

Most would agree that Henry Ford was a bit of a revolutionary - or at least a visionary! Because of his imagination and abilities to carve a niche for his products, the world changed - a lot!

Livery stables, blacksmiths, railroads, farming, commerce/banking, government are all examples of industries that either faded out of existence or were altered significantly by the massive growth of the automobile industry. There have been a multitude of industries that have come into being and evolved and grown as a direct result of the automobile industry. 

The development of technology, and specifically, the internet have already revolutionized society in proportions equal to the influence of the automobile industry. In fact, the functionality of the internet is viral in its ability to alter society as we know it, compared to the societal changes brought about by the automobile! 

Currently, society is observing the closing of 20 percent of major malls! Major retail chains, known for their ability to drive mall sales are either closing large portions of their locations:

  • Aeropostale - from 860 stores to 600 stores
  • American Eagle Outfitters - from 949 stores to 800 stores

or are closing all of their locations:

  • The Limited - from 800 stores to 250 stores to 0 stores
  • Sports Authority - from more than 200 stores to 0 stores

The shrinkage list contains prominent names: Chico’s, Staples, Radio Shack, Kmart, Men’s Wearhouse, Penney’s, Sears, Claire’s, J. Crew and Macy’s. Even the prestigious Ralph Lauren has lost a significant piece of real estate! 

Most close to home, the Jeweler’s Board of Trade reports that more than 1600 jewelry businesses closed their doors in 2016! 

Revisiting the automobile industry analogy, the brands and types of automobiles that have proven to be sustainable for nearly one hundred years are the ones which have been remarkably capable of creating cars to meet the specifications of the consumers. Do you see a comparison here? Retailers who can be creative and flexible will continue to have the performance edge over those that are cumbersome and inflexible and who insist on utilizing business models and strategies that no longer apply to the society in which we find ourselves.

Over the past few articles, we’ve spent considerable ink discussing survival techniques, looking forward to what is on the immediate horizon and staying relevant to the desires of your customers, refining your product lines and choosing the integrated focus which will entice your customers. We’ve talked about the characteristics of Millennial consumers and their differences from previous generations. 

As the changes to the retail climate continue, taking steps to adapt your business concepts and practices will cause you to either be the next closure statistic or to be the vital pulse beat to meet the needs of your customers, be they Silent Generationers, Boomers, Xers, Millennials and beyond. 

Your very success and retail life depend on your ability to be flexible and innovative. It used to be called “being able to roll with the punches.” It’s that and more than that now! How creative can you be? What innovations can you visualize that will be simple for your business and generate an irresistible draw for your potential markets?

My best guess is that the “grab-a-number,-get-in-line” model for retail is O.V.E.R! With that level of customer service and product representation, what would possibly motivate your customer to leave the comfortable cocoon of an internet-equipped home to traipse into your store front?

But - If you could create a unique combination of social/work spaces, equipped with pleasant comforts and experiences, not only would your potential markets come to your store fronts, they would be positively enticed to part with cash, they would stay for longer periods of time to accomplish their tasks and to socialize and gain personal satisfaction from an integrated lifestyle experience. It used to be that churches were the hub of the community; then schools became the central focus of society. 

Part of what appeals to potential customers is a setting to meet all of those “old-fashioned” needs, and to enhance their overall well-being: a physical setting that does offer the flexibility to honor your customer’s personality in an experiential WOW setting. Combining traditional retail displays with computer-aided design services, with sensory experiences (art, music, yoga, nutritional, olfactory and tactile), with social and workplace offerings sets your venue apart from outdated “cattle stampede” retail settings. 

The concepts of great customer service, in a setting of warmth, attractiveness, adaptability and creature comfort offer clients advantages that appeal to their sense of being cared for in a specialized manner. 

Managing product offerings for quality, pricing, internet feature-checking, computer-customization options, efficient transactions and convenient delivery are all facets of completing purchases satisfactorily, while combining shopping with other tasks and pleasures of modern lifestyles.

Change often feels uncomfortable and out of control. Having the attitude of moving forward to better ways of operating can diminish the riskiness of doing things in a different manner. These changes offer the possibility of increasing community, commerce and efficiency!

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.