Sure, Retail’s tough. And here’s how to succeed at it.

Feb 16, 2018 | Becoming a Destination Business, Competing in Today's Economy, Small Business Success

Not a week goes by without someone saying to me: “Retail’s tough.” I hear it from developers, bankers, downtown directors, and business leaders.  They say with a “That’s just the way it is” sigh.

Want to know how independent retailers today thrive? Here’s how:

At the invitation of Suzanne and Jim Sereff, owners of the Warm Hugs gift shop in Greeley, Colorado, I attended their invitation-only Mastermind retailer group in Kansas City the day before I was scheduled to speak at a big retailer conference.  I knew Jim and Suzanne because they had just attended one of our Destination BootCamps with their daughter Beth (they’re in the photo above).

Their Mastermind retailer group was made up of more than a dozen owners. They hold their annual 2½-day meeting when they’re all together for a conference, plus they have dinners together and informal meetings at trade shows through the year. When they can’t be together, they keep the conversation going with a private Facebook group page. Just watching them, I could see that they have what it takes to flourish in today’s small business environment – clear focus, open collaboration, courage to try new ideas, and accountability to keep commitments.

I was able to be with them for several hours.  One after another, these remarkably savvy people running their own successful stores stood up to talk about ways they’ve made their business better – a social networking tool, a marketing strategy – and they’d share their materials. All of them!

Suzanne and Jim got in front of the group and talked about coming to the Destination BootCamp and shared what she’d learned about becoming a destination business, like identifying and promoting their Unique Positioning, a key step in attracting local and out-of-town customers. They weren’t protective of secrets, and they were open to all kinds of feedback. Suzanne told me they also share product finds when they get together for dinner at the sprawling trade shows: “You cannot see everything in these huge buildings in Atlanta with floors and floors and floors of stuff. It’s nice to have other eyes out there.”

These owners aren’t worried about competing with big-box stores, or Amazon, and they don’t sit around being nostalgic about some golden age of small business retailing. They’re too busy getting it right in their own shops and confident that, with smart moves and each other’s help, the pie can grow big enough for everyone to succeed.

Sitting with them in their Mastermind group, I knew they were right.

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