With all this talk about retail armageddon and apocalypse you would be forgiven for thinking that retail was dead but the reverse is true. Change like what we are currently experiencing brings with it opportunity, and the successful market traders of the future are being created right now.
There are a number of ways that market traders can prepare for the future and although none of them are likely to happen by standing still, these ways are not all that difficult.
Innovation - keeping a fresh mind on opportunities is a great way to excite customers and sometimes it involves sticking with the tried and true.
UK's retail icon, Selfridges, has just introduced a brand new cooking class for its customers and it involves, wait for it, ....... potato peeling! Yes, Selfridges are teaching their new age customers the grand old art of peeling potatoes.
Customers who have never peeled potatoes in their lives are finding it a very comforting experience. Spice grinding and tea making are reportedly next on the agenda.
One of the joys of retailing is experimentation and finding new ways of entertaining customers is just a "think outside the square" mindset away.
Personalising- it might be a mini trend but personalising your products with printing, embroidery, or stick on letters is a feature of many of our new trader offerings. Inexpensive technology is available for a wide range of do it yourself personalising and if that is what turns your everyday product into a one-off exclusive, then it is certainly worth a look. Foil printing on leather, engraving, embroidery, and alphabet jewellery are all options for traders.
Food - the new discretionary spending in retail involves food. Customers who used to spend a few dollars on clothing or knick knacks are now joining the "coffee and cake" culture.
And the statistics are overwhelming. Ibisworld reports that restaurants are growing at 5.6% per annum and cafes and coffee shops at a whopping 7% per annum. Roy Morgan Research recently reported that the "cafe culture" is on the rise with nearly 60% of Australians 14 years and over visiting a cafe at least once in a 3 month period. More people are going to pubs for food rather than just drink. Intermedia reported late last year that Australian households spend nearly $100 per household per week eating out.
And the trend is global. The Guardian UK reported this month - "Separate figures from Visa show a modest rise in household spending in March, with the increase of 1% year on year slightly below February’s figure of 1.6%. However, while spending on household goods, and clothing and footwear was down, spending on recreation and culture was up by 7.2%, while hotels saw a 4% boost."
Food is comparatively inexpensive, social, trendy and fun so it becomes a great replacement for buying an item of clothing or a knick knack for the house. For many struggling General Merchandise Traders it is a shame that transitioning from shoes to sushi is not a simple process but food is certainly a growth opportunity.
Online - traders are probably sick of being told to go online but this really is quite a simple process and apart from some regular stock control maintenance, websites can pretty much look after themselves. Sites like Weebly, Go Daddy, and Wix offer simple do it yourself setups and potentially complex processes like customer payment options are handled automatically. You can experiment to your hearts content without committing to payment so why not give it a try. Many retailers have surprised themselves with their web building results. Multi channel retailing is not just a buzzword. It is achievable by all traders.
Marketing - social media means that marketing has never been easier for market traders and the best part is you can do it for free. Photographs and videos can be created by every trader with a smartphone and don't worry about getting traction. It is amazing how your group of friends on Facebook or Instagram can expand into thousands of views with an interesting post and a little sharing. And of course the huge reach of QVM Facebook is available to all traders.
Take A Holiday - thus may sound like strange advice but there is nothing like a good holiday to clear the mind, aid focus, and set you in a path of retail enlightenment. And if your holiday is in a retail Mecca that could just aid the process. Two market traders who recently returned from extended holidays in the US say they have come back with renewed vigour and focus. Retail woes are global but one trader said that the positive responses, and the "can do" attitude, seen in the US was an eye-opener.
There are plenty of opportunities for traders to prepare for the next stage of their retail career. Like we said, it is unlikely to happen while standing still, but the methods are not as frightening as they look and besides "fortune favours the brave". Good luck!