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Retailers: rise up from the ashes!

July 14th, 2009 by Pitney Bowes

By Deb Purcell


It’s certainly been a tough year for businesses of all kinds. Real estate sales are down. Retail performance is down. And more than 20 large retail chains have gone into liquidation and shut down more than 3000 storefronts. 


Yet, there’s a definite silver lining for 2008 survivors.  It comes in the form of decreased competition for both good customers and better real estate.  Trends indicate that, while things may be bad, they are getting better; and, with the massive shifts in the business landscape, there are real opportunities out there for the taking. 


So, what are the keys to growing a business in today’s still-tough times?  Here are a few important thoughts: 


Opportunity #1: Know and serve your customer:  Serving your customer may seem obvious, but have you really considered how your customers’ needs may have changed with the economic downturn.  Today, it’s all about price. Everyone is shopping for a better deal – and the winners are those who present the best price/value combination.  Keeping a customer costs less than getting a new one. Show empathy for you customers’ situations by offering them true value, so they don’t need to look else where, and give them incentives to come back and see you soon and often.  Loyalty may be lacking today – but this presents an opportunity to strengthen customer relations for the longer term.


Opportunity #2: Turn others’ losses into your gain:  Store closings have always meant abandoned customers and real estate, but the dynamics are different today. Many store closings have taken place in otherwise healthy markets – they are a result of corporate liquidations, not local-market decline. Careful geographic analysis can help you to identify now-underserved markets that fit your customer profile. And, with vacancies up and costs down, lease renegotiation is the name of the game in real estate today. Explore your opportunities now, before customers settle into new shopping patterns and the window to lock in lower lease rates closes..


Opportunity #3:  Prepare for Market Recovery and Underlying Macro Trends:  The recession may have hit everyone, but the degree of impact and ultimately recovery rates will vary.  As you look for new opportunities, look for recovering markets – markets where the underlying trends will bode a strong rebound.  And, as you plan, remember that, while the recession is at the top of everyone’s mind today, other dynamics – growth in online retailing, demographic shifts in the population in age and diversity, and “green trends” will continue to impact retail markets. Use the current slowdown as an opportunity to plan effectively for these known long-term trends.


Comments and questions welcome – would love to hear where else you see opportunity to rise from the ashes of 2008/2009…


Cross posted at

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