Retailers – Stop Reading About Your Death

Retail isn't dead, and it's not even dying
By: Harry J. Friedman

I was recently watching a financial segment on a national news show about the retail sector. It was interesting if in fact, these things are ever interesting. They were talking about major retailers, as expected, and Kohl’s. Kohl’s stock was nearly off 40% even though their sales were off 5%. They also mentioned that Kohl’s was not in major shopping centers, which they felt were getting worse. Then there was a big pivot on the show to retail merchandise brands which they felt was the big driver of sales. They said that the store didn’t matter as much as the brands they carry. Really? The last thing I heard was that Nike was now available on Amazon and the world was coming to an end (for retailers).

When I listen to shows like these or read articles about retail, I often have an overall impression of what is going on in their minds. It is a huge game being played behind the scenes and it is all about the money. I suppose it’s cool in some sorta way. We are just not part of it, but we feel it.

The huge take-away for me was and is (thinking as an independent retailer) what impact does the financial markets, analysts and soothsayers have on my business? I think the impact has been great. Huge for a very strange reason. Remember chicken little?

Each store in your organization or your only store is at best a local store. Most retailers I know try to act and present itself like it’s part of a big organization. The best example of local stores that I know of are bike shops. They have weekly group rides and they are very involved in the local community. They breed a loyalty I have seldom seen. Take a look at Topanga Creek Outpost in California. I must admit they slicked up their website, but if you can get ahold of their newsletter you will be blown away at how local, local can get. Come on in and have some coffee and banana bread. You may also look at Ocean Enterprises, a local scuba diving shop in San Diego. One of my favorite things is their pumpkin carving contest each Halloween and yes, of course its underwater.

I am not talking about the bulletin board at Starbucks. These retailers and many more are in tune with what the local crowd wants, not the national crowd as seen by analysts. They have events all the time, they sell great merchandise that is even outside the status quo. Topanga Creek sells jars of various foods!!! All packaged with their name. And are you ready for this? The employees enjoy their jobs. Oh my.

So maybe it’s time to stop reading about your death. Maybe it’s time to even go back before we go forward. I’ll never forget that as a little kid, my grandmother worked in a retail store and she kept a small book with all her customers names, important information, purchasing habits etc. But I guess in those days people could still write.

-Harry J. Friedman
Founder/CEO, The Friedman Group

About The Friedman Group

The Friedman Group is a retail consulting and sales training company focused on improving retailers through high-quality courses. Its proven track record includes over 5 million retailers trained, more than 150,000 companies represented, and 5% to 50% sales increases in its more than 35 years in the business.

The company, led by Founder and CEO Harry J. Friedman, has worked with the biggest brands in retail like Cartier, Neiman Marcus, Nike, Diane von Furstenberg, Samsonite, and more.