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Will Your Store Be Around in Ten Years?


With market shares getting smaller and greater concentration on ecommerce, what are the chances of your store’s survival in these turbulent retail times?

First of all, the most successful stores have established such a strong brand identity and niche, and have attracted such a loyal customer base, that competitors might find it difficult to duplicate. Wal-Mart, L.L. Bean, Costco, Whole Foods, Apple, Amazon, IKEA and Subway are but a few of the retail stalwarts who so far have stood the test of time.

There are commonalities among successful retailers that are worth noting. Strong retail strategies involve having a singular vision that connects to a core customer group, like the retailers listed above. A loyal group of customers not only gives you a good sales base but also gives you extra clout from their advocacy of your brand.

Most retail strategies evolve over the years. They find a formula that works and expand upon it, sometimes deriving new ideas by accident. IKEA, Best Buy, L.L. Bean and Whole Foods started with simple ideas and expanded as they got traction and found things that worked. IKEA discovered outsourcing assembly to customers when an employee had to remove the legs for a table to get it in a car. Best Buy’s policy of serving customers rather than selling components was implemented over time; its “Geek Squad” is an outgrowth of that philosophy. Subway refined its sandwich strategy over five years when it still consisted of only one store.

Often, the execution of a strategy can make or break a business. Successful retailers deliver their value and message consistently and generally, profitably. Stores like Gap and Zara developed systems to create and deliver products quickly on a real-time basis. Whole Foods sources and distributes organic foods. IKEA’s footprint, product presentation and customer assembly philosophy would be tough to duplicate. These retailers’ systems and allocated resources have been put in place to assure consistent execution, resulting in achieving sizable market share in their respective categories, and road blocks to competition.

Finding needs that aren’t met is another key to success and longevity. Best Buy’s Geek Squad and the Apple Store fulfilled the need to avoid the frustration of installing, using and maintaining computer and entertainment systems.

Once these stores had established a presence and traction, they capitalized upon emerging trends. Whole Foods saw a growing interest in organic and natural foods early on and subsequent copycats had a difficult time.

Many stores saw a trend emerge after they had gotten traction and were poised to grow. Whole Foods saw an increasing interest in organic and natural foods when it was established and it became too late for others to climb on the bandwagon from a brand and capabilities standpoint. Whole Foods also engaged its shoppers with substance and despite some pricing mis-steps, is seen as sharing the values, interests, and even the lifestyles of an important customer segment. REI and Patagonia benefited from an interest in sustainability and an environmental passion that flows through its brand and corporate mission—a mission that appeals to a growing segment of buyers.

These successful retailers employ Facebook, Twitter and multiple websites for consumers to give them immediate and valuable feedback on their brands, advertising, promotions, service and facilities. They know that customers rule and those customers value the ability to give their input and shape the store experience.

With consumers demanding more value, competitors are forced to monitor each other’s offerings and with the current fever-pitch competition between online and in-store, a climate has been created where it is almost impossible for other retailers to gain a competitive advantage.

Fledgling and struggling stores looking to establish a real presence need to get back to the basics of success if they are to make a dent in the crowded retail landscape.

TAGS: e-commerce, retail, retail trends, retailers, work in retail,
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