It wasn’t true during FDR’s time and it probably won’t be true now, but my guess is that business will be getting marginally better barring another catastrophe.
Most retailers experienced a noticeable slowdown in business prior to Nov. 2. No American wanted a continuation of the current economic situation. Consumers sat on their pocketbooks until the smoke cleared. In most areas, business has picked up since the election and as long as the “newbie” legislators understand and carry through with the message sent by voters, we should see a gradual strengthening of the economy. Moreover, the corporate trillions sitting on the sidelines may start to trickle into the economy setting off increased hiring.
Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and there are dozens of factors that are likely to have negative influences, but I would plan for an uptick. Most of those who are working have money and there is a pent-up demand for home furnishings. But none of this affects the changes in consumer behavior and buying patterns. People will be shopping harder, looking for the best possible value because an air of uncertainty will linger for a long while. Store traffic will certainly be off.
The best retailers can do is to recognize the power of the social networks and Internet. Everyone from office personnel to salespeople have to get involved. If your company doesn’t have a staff member familiar with social networking and web pages, you must hire someone to train your people. It’s much the same with traditional networking. It’s not enough to sip cocktails at the local chamber meeting or have breakfast with the women’s business group; you must have a plan to work these events, follow-up and set appointments.
Networking extends to the social and service clubs. As I’ve repeated over and over, Lions buy from Lions, Rotarians from Rotarians, Eagles from Eagles, Elks from Elks and church members from church members. You should be covered in as many of these organizations as possible. Encourage your employees to be engaged with one or more of these groups.
Not to be overlooked is the existing customer file. Never let more than three months go by without contacting your previous customers. They are your most reliable source of business. Contrary to what many suppliers preach, flooring customers are regular customers.
A better economy doesn’t mean people will return to reading periodicals at prior rates or stop surfing around the commercials. This behavior is permanent. The good news is that advertising and promotion is not only different, but cheaper. Don’t waste your money on the latest marketing stunts and generic supplier ads; it’s a poor allocation of scarce advertising funds unless the co-op is 100%. Yellow Pages for retailers has always been a complete waste and is now more than ever. Proof of this is the fact that no major retailer advertises in Yellow Pages other than maybe a listing. The reason is that taking the money and using it for other forms of advertising returns five to eight times the results.
I know I sound like a broken record (even I get bored writing it), but adapting to the new retail paradigm will bring you success whether the economy turns around or not.