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RETAIL THERAPY: The Right Stuff

When I was younger I wanted to open a chain of stores. The stores would be part shoe retailer, part hair salon and part pub, and I wanted to name them Jaime’s Shoes, Dos and Brews.

While this was just a dream for me, you’re all living out your visions. Although I’m still waiting for the whole Shoes, Dos and Brews thing to pan out, I am starting to reflect on my younger self’s invention as I see similar creative entrepreneurship in many of the home improvement stores I visit.

I saw it from one retailer who cleverly ran plumbing throughout his displays so he could show the store’s faucets and toilets in action, and I saw another who put a working kitchen in his store to show housewares products in a realistic environment.

These retailers get customers talking, they win industry awards and they inspire other retailers.

But what’s alarming to me is when I see retailers focus so heavily on breaking the mold that they lose sight of the financial foundations of their businesses. Unfortunately, this oversight has cost some retailers their businesses altogether.

As an industry, we have an abundance of leaders wanting to enter the business who are ready to exercise their creativity. They’re drawn to the independent sector with dreams of being their own bosses and creating retail experiences no one else can offer. We must also impress on these entrepreneurs the importance of balancing a store’s front-end presentation with the back-end operations.

And if you haven’t taken a good look at all angles of your business—even the not-so-exciting financial statements—I’d suggest you revisit this as well. If you can’t maintain profitable stores, you won’t have stores in which to be creative.

I just read a book about Steve Jobs that solidified my concerns. The book presented Jobs as a visionary and an inventor. It went into great detail about how he pushed the boundaries in tech development and changed life as we know it. And it was a great read.

But what the book failed to explore was Jobs’s understanding of finance, his attention to market research and his methodical sourcing practices. These were as key to his success as his creativity.

I love this time of year because this is the time we take a systematic look at the industry in Market Measure: The Industry’s Annual Report, which you can find here.

This report is a great starting point from which to analyze your businesses from all angles. It provides benchmarks, updates, trends and forecasts. Using this data, you can find opportunities in your markets and perform analytical, no-fluff reviews of your operations.

I know the independent sector doesn’t lack the creativity or vision needed—I’ve seen it. But I challenge you to remember all aspects of your business and arm yourself with the data in this month’s magazine.

Who knows? Maybe you and I could someday work out a deal to open Shoes, Dos, Brews and Tools.

About Jaime Koch

Jaime Koch
Jaime Koch was the managing editor of Hardware Retailing Magazine. Jaime regularly traveled around the country and internationally to visit with retailers and share their stories. Jaime was honored by the American Society of Business Publishers for Editorial Excellence.

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