To Retail Or Not To Retail

One of Monica’s goals when we started our business was to open a boutique to show off all her amazing products. I kind of shared that goal, but being highly analytical, all I saw was dollars being spent on the lease of a storefront and wages paid to employees. While storefront space in most cities is coming down in cost some, but it is still way too high for us to even come close to making a profit.

Since then, our goals changed to being in retail instead of opening our own shop. However, this is morphing into something else as well.

The biggest reason for this change in our goals is the behaviors of the American Shopper of late. The news is rife with stories of retail chains closing stores. JCPenney, Macy’s, and even Sear’s are closing stores. Yes, these are the “boring old brands” but even hip brands like Target, Aeropostale and The Gap are reducing their retail footprint. Even major restaurant chains are having a similar experience.

At the same time, consumer confidence is increasing. This seems like a huge disparity in economic news, but if you watch the behavior of the American Shopper, it may be able to be explained.

People are spending money. Maybe they aren’t spending as much money as they have in the past, but they are spending. The interesting thing is that they aren’t spending it in the same places as before. People want an experience when they shop, not the same boring mall or store with the same brands. If they know what they want, they avoid the hassle of having to get dressed, hop in the car, fight for a parking space and deal with people. They just buy it online.

People are spending money on things that they can really connect with. Food that is grown locally by a family farm, jewelry that was handcrafted by a local artist, t-shirts with designs that connect to the community are all things that attract the American Shopper today. Personally, I think it is a side effect of people feeling disconnected from each other because they are attached to their phones all day long.

Additionally, sales people at a retail store know very little about your products let alone the thousands of other products on their shelves. There is very little motivation for them to learn these products because most of the time they get paid just for being there and performing basic duties.

And then there is the financial consideration. Assuming you have read my blog post “How to Price Your Products“, you know that you are selling your products to the retail store at a measly 2.2 times what you have in it. If they are going to sell 1000 of your products a week, this may be well worth the effort. If they are only going to sell a few per month, then you end up working twice as hard for half the benefit.

Your dream of having your product on the shelves of every major retailer may work for you if you have a production operation that can scale to that size. However, you still need to start somewhere and that is what these smaller Artisan Markets are for. They give you the exposure and critique that you need to build your business and brand.

While Monica and I are no longer dreaming as much of being on retail shelves, we still look for retail opportunities. However, the retailer must a totally unique experience where our products will be enhanced by the other products in the store, not disappear in the visual chaos that surrounds it.

Another tactic you can take in your retail strategy is to find a business that will use your product in the service they provide to their customers. For example, we are branding an aftershave. We will be working with barber shops to make it an essential part of the shaving experience they provide to their customers. Once they get introduced to the product, they can buy it off of their shelves as they pay for their shave. Even better, the barber will know the product and be able to sell the benefits of the all-natural experience of the aftershave.

There are retail opportunities that still exist. However as the American Shopper’s behavior changes you should consider these opportunities very carefully. Just getting into retail should not be your goal. Getting into the right retail with joint marketing and cross product benefits should be on your list of goals.

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