When I first became a Marketing Director, working for San Diego developer Ernest W. Hahn, I remember walking the mall and waving and smiling at each of the retailers. It gave me a happy feeling to have this position. I felt like a mini mayor of my own little city, I was a goodwill ambassador to my community of merchants. I was there to assist them with ideas, marketing plans, events and ideas to increase their business. My daily mall walks would take me into stores like:
Foxmoor Casuals, Petries, Leed’s Shoes, Hot Dog on a Stick, Cinnabon, Gottschalk’s, Weinstock’s, Spencer’s Gifts, Radio Shack, Blockbuster, Payless Shoes, Sam Goody, Walden Books, The Nature Company, KB Toys, and Contempo to name a few.
Those stores were staples in my life. They were my daily “go to” merchants. Much to my surprise, only a couple of these would survive the retail apocalypse. With 30 plus years in the shopping center industry, it is much easier now to detect those in trouble. Of course, we can look at the sales reports that are produced monthly, but as a true marketing guru, you can see the writing on the wall long before the sales start to fall. Here are 5 signs a retail business is on their way to extinction.
1. Lack of Technology
Many shopping center retailers don’t use apps and technology to track inventory, customer trends, and trending merchandise. All stores must have a database of loyal customers that they talk to on a regular basis to keep them updated on store happenings. This is easy to do by posting photos and videos on platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
Technology is changing at the speed of light which means we must be changing along with it. Who would have thought Blockbuster would close their stores? We were hearing about streaming for years, but didn’t really understand the power of this new technology until it was installed on every new TV.
Keeping abreast of changes in your industry, however slight, will alert you when it’s time for a change. Stay informed about new laws and policies that could potentially affect your business, even tangentially and take trends seriously, no matter how silly or unlikely they might be. Do you remember The Pet Rock? Who would have thought that guy would make a million dollars!
2. Drop in Sales
This may seem obvious, but this rarely happens as one would think. Generally, the drop is slow and steady and may go undetected for some time. Keep an eagle-eye on sales figures. Analyze even the slightest declines in sales and ask key questions about the reasoning behind the decline. If a retailer can’t put their finger on the reasons why (such as: tariffs, shipping or temporary lack of supplies for processing products) then suspect that there’s something more serious going on. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as there are numerous people to seek help from.
3. Increase in Customer Requests
Listen with an open mind and heart. When customers are asking you for a specific product or service that you don’t carry or provide, this may be a sign that it’s time for redirection. Keep a comments journal and get back to each comment and/or complaint on your social media feeds. Research your competitors to see what they are selling and services they are providing. Send out regular survey’s to your customers to ask for honest feedback. These are all simple ways to improve communication while gathering important nuggets of information.
4. Lack of Direction
It is time to take a long hard look at yourself and your business. If you are driving to a friend’s house and you have no address, how do you expect to get there? Does your business continue to move forward despite impediments and setbacks? Do you do whatever it takes to reach your goals? Does your business have goals? If you can’t come up with an answer to these simple questions, you may need to hire a consultant to take you through the steps of planning a mission and vision for your company, so you have a clear path to success.
Don’t get too comfortable and assume a product or service will always be popular. This is living in a fantasy world, much like I was thinking that Foxmoor Casuals and Contempo would always be there for me. I thought I would always be going to Blockbuster on Friday night to get my weekend of movies. Many companies with a “sure thing” have fallen into obscurity. Avoid this happening to your business by maintaining humility even in the face of soaring success. Stay humble, alert and always on the hunt for new ideas.
Remember gurus, you are only as good as your lurking and research. It is our goal at CMA to always be aware of these 5 signs and the ever-changing trends. By doing this we consistently implement new strategies and keep our edge up.
Credit: The Hartford, SPA, National Chamber of Commerce