March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20
By Lisbeth Calandrino
When things are good, we have a tendency to sit back. However, complacency is the silent killer and it can attack both big and small businesses. It reminds me of a memorable quote from Roger Babson, entrepreneur and founder of Babson College: “Neither success nor failure is ever final.”
This quote made me think of Howard Brodsky, cofounder and co-CEO of CCA Global Partners (the parent company of Carpet One). During a recent conversation, I asked him what he made of all the closings of old retail favorites such as Macy’s, JC Penney’s, Sears, etc., and what the implications are for the flooring industry.
“Retailers are just complacent and think they can thrive by sitting back and resting on their past successes,” he told me. “Being great just isn’t enough these days. When I was in retail it was easier to differentiate and to stand out from the pack. There were fewer competing choices for consumers. Today, being great is the price you pay for being in an industry; the key is to be great and outstanding.”
He went on to explain that everyone expects a personalized experience, and it is up to the retailer to make it happen. Customers want to be treated as if they are at the finest hotel, and every member of your team must be trained to deliver that service.
Another major problem is the U.S. is overbuilt, Brodsky noted. The U.S. has 40 square feet of retail space per person, which is 10 times the amount in Europe.
I also asked Brodsky for his opinion as to why Amazon would buy Whole Foods and if the retail giant actually needs a brick and mortar store. “Amazon amazed the world by its purchase, but it makes perfect sense,” he replied. “Amazon was interested in the grocery business and needed a physical presence. Whole Foods has more than 400 locations, which gives Amazon a place to try out their online super service and personalization with Whole Foods. Think about the special services Amazon Prime members receive.”
Consumers still love the personalized, intimate experience and contact they receive in a retail store—something not replicable online, Brodsky explained. In fact, businesses can tap into these consumer demands and emotions by having a combination of online and brick/mortar. While it used to be enough to know how to buy at the right price and then be a good marketer, now a retail store must be exciting and full of amazing experiences.
“The thing to remember is although the times may be unsettling, it’s exciting—retail isn’t going away; it’s time for a radical change,” Brodsky said. “The key is a culture that delivers memorable, distinguishable service both online and in the store.”
I then returned to complacency and Brodsky’s statements about personalization and asked if he had any suggestions for flooring retailers. He explained when things are going our way we have a tendency to want to “ride the wave.” However, the perfect time to experiment is when we don’t have a lot of pressure and stress. In fact, without tension we tend to make better decisions.
“You want to develop legendary stories that others will tell for you,” Brodsky noted. “You must anticipate the customers’ needs and deliver memorable experiences that meet those needs.”
Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.