Knowing Your ABCs
By Craig M. Rexford

On a stretch of a major roadway in suburban New Jersey, three pet stores have closed down over the last year or so. They closed for all the usual reasons–mainly a combination of high costs and low sales caused by too much competition in the area.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that at least four other pet stores appear to be thriving in the same area. They are doing well for the usual reasons–mainly a combination of well-stocked stores, convenience, competitive pricing and a retail sales team that will bend over backwards to make the customer feel welcomed and willing to part with their hard-earned dollars.

The point here is that recessions are part of the cycle of any economy. Usually they last a period of months, maybe a year, and they serve to balance things out, calming inflation. This economic downturn is a bit more severe than most, and it has played havoc with several key industries, including retail, more than others.

But retailers can and should be able to survive this economic upheaval. The key, of course, is making sure the consumer gets what he or she wants and needs in a timely basis and at a cost that they believe is fair.

Price is always the biggest issue. But, as this month’s cover story discusses, retailers need to improve the consumer’s shopping experience, with a particular emphasis on making the store more convenient for shoppers to visit and spend. Of course, a clean store with a helpful staff is a big part of this equation. Yet, there is more–a lot more.

Retailers need to pay attention to store hours, how items are displayed and payment methods. They also need to look at some mundane little things that may not look important, but are. One is keeping the parking lot clean and accessible. Another is making sure that the website is up, running and current. A third could be keeping the bathroom clean for anyone in need.

The bottom line is that not everyone is going to fold their tent during this recession, or in the face of a larger competitor. Those who truly want to survive must dot their “Is,” cross their “Ts” and learn the ABCs of retailing in the 21st century.