Despite the tumultuous change happening in the retail industry, there are plenty of shoppers and they are buying. And while there is no doubt that online shopping has and will continue to impact every aspect of retailing, brick-and-mortar stores have never been more relevant and vital, including independent retailers. In 2018 Amazon and Walmart® will continue to dominate the retailing headlines — so what? Independent retailers should focus on what they do and be the very best at it. Forget about the Amazon mania and the Walmart® hype — the only thing that truly matters is the customer who walks into your store.
It should come as no surprise that retailers like ACE Hardware® — a retailer-owned cooperative — are continuing to win praise from consumers and deliver record results. Part of the reason is that ACE has steadfastly remained focused on customers and being “the helpful place.” To be successful in 2018, I encourage indie retailers to make an extra effort to deliver a personal shopping experience and be their own version of ‘helpful place’. All retailers, and independent retailers in particular, need to realize that every shopper that enters the store has expressed an intent to buy — make an extra effort to personalize the visit by thanking visitors for stopping by and then engaging to understand her needs and interests. A more personal connection creates a sense of obligation — this is something shoppers can’t get online or don’t often get in big box or large chains.
And finally, stay positive. Retail is a tough business and every retailer — regardless of size and category — has their challenges and their strengths. Focus on your strengths.