Saturday 4 March 2017

Defending Against Retail Armageddon

Armageddon is a pretty strong word but if you believe the hype over the Australian arrival of Amazon and now TJMaxx (see separate article) you could be forgiven for thinking that all hell is about to break loose. Competition for dwindling levels of consumer spending (housing and savings are taking the lions share) means that retailing is a tougher gig than ever.

Market Traders have two big advantages. One is our low overheads (and yes, management please forget you read that comment). And secondly, we have high levels of business flexibility. So what does that mean and what things do we need to consider if we are to make the most of those advantages.
          1.   Innovation – we all know the old saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.” Flexibility means we can try different things, and allowing for some failures (they are inevitable), we can be confident of finding winners. NOTE: QVM has opened up its Incubation Market in C Shed to existing traders. If you want to trial a new range or idea, contact Matt Ryan (T (03) 9325 9441 M 0421 359 913 E

          2.   Customer Relations – customers determine what sells by their actions so understanding their thinking is crucial. How do you find out what they are thinking? Talking to them at your stall is a great start but these days we also have social media which is easy to set up and develop a customer following. Customer “likes” on facebook tell us ...well, what they like.

          3.   Cost Cutting – low overheads are important to market traders and we need to stay “lean & mean.” My Postmaster thought I must be spending a lot of money on packaging my mail orders with fresh new cardboard until I explained that I actually used supplier’s cartons and reversed them to show the new face. Let’s call it “lean & smart”.

          4.   Prioritising – The duties of retailers are many and varied. There are not enough hours in the day, and we do need a life as well. And you probably think that your face to face customer experience needs your priority (no argument with that) but stock control, sales data, all that backroom stuff, can’t be neglected. And you need to find time for creative thinking and ............ sigh, lots of other things. The point is that prioritising the important things will help you maximise the performance of your business.

          5.   Use Outside Resources – it is smart to get help. QVM has resources, particularly involving social media exposure that you can utilise. There is financial assistance with your marketing as well.

          6.   Compelling Stall Presentation – how you present your stall differentiates you from outside retailers and your market competitors. Make your stall exciting to your customers and reap the rewards.

          7.   Understand Your Customer – at a simplistic level, if you are trading in the top end of the market then most of your customers are tourists. If you are in fresh food then most of your customers are locals. But if fringe groups can impact on your sales by even a few percent, they are important. Market to your core customer group but be ready for the opportunities created by a huge variety of special interest groups.

          8.   Be foolish – there are many wonderful quotes from successful retailers but one of the best is from Steve Jobs while addressing students at Stanford University in 2005.

“Stay Hungry...Stay Foolish”

You can interpret that as you wish but for me it means be constantly inquiring and don’t be afraid to take risks. Jobs made a very successful consumer company by listening to his customers but also creatively designing things that his customers hadn’t yet thought of.

It is a great idea to set up your own checklist and review it from time to time. Your thoughts on this one are most welcome.

By Greg Smith

04/03/2017 17:34:13 lean and mean "As always its a pleasure to read Greg's posts..
You made me laugh, what a simple and yet brilliant idea reverse the used carton boxes so they appear new. Fantastic." Andy
Thanks Andy. Years ago that would have been called cheap. Now it is called responsible re-cycling. - Ed