Retail: The new contact sport?

This article appeared this week in Home Accents mag! Great for retailers but also for anyone running a small business.

“What got you where you are today is not sufficient to keep you there” is the wisdom for 2020 for being successful in retail. 

Never in our history has the landscape of retailing changed so fast and furiously. Keeping up has become a full time job in and of itself or you risk being left behind bewildered, befuddled and wondering what will be next.

Staying relevant to a mercurial consumer requires cutting through the noise, owning the contact, being bold and true to your brand personality, hiring and retaining a motivated and talented team, and the determination to be the architect of your bottom line.

Here are a few strategies we use to level the playing field. 


We cultivate relationships with customers one at a time.

A strong focus on retaining customers that love our shop and have purchased before- this is worth 50 new customers to us.

Success Strategies: Develop creative individual” loyalty programs” Incentivizing people to shop with you by conveying a special deal just for them. For example, we wanted to open a new line of mohair throws. We sent out a quick fun text (yes I said text!) to 15 key customers we knew would love them  They retail for 300.00- we offered them at our “buy in” level if they would commit now- this was 25% less than retail.

We sold 9 throws, profited 890.00, made the opening order, all with a 45 minute effort.

A mutual win and customers loved the excitement. Don’t wait for customers to walk in, go out and grab them.


Have a point of view- even in your shop. Don’t be afraid to be different.

If you love what is in your shop, you will sell it. And so will your team. Believe in your product mix or change it.

Stand up and stand out.  But don’t stand in the middle of the road or you just will be run over.

Success Strategies: Our shop has a large carefully selected collection of vintage barware.  It is an category I know well and can buy it across the country and make a good profit.  It is an integral part of our brand personality and people will come in just to look at the “museum” of glass and other bits and pieces of paper history I have framed and placed throughout the shop. Retailers are challenged to get bodies through the door. This is one way we get people in and engaged.

No better way to open a conversation.


Innovate or die.

Staying relevant today means being cognizant of tech advances, social media impact, consumer behavior, market trends and potential new streams of revenue. All the things!  Whew.  It is exhilarating and exhausting, but necessary.

Success Strategies: Think non-traditional streams of revenue. One of our largest growth categories is original art sourced regionally. For a retail shop that is an outgrowth of a strong design firm, this is a beautiful three for one; no investment in inventory is on site for design clients and then too, we can use it for photo shoots whether the client has bought it or not.

“Trying it on” can be a key component to building relationships.


Communication needs to occur from the very first interaction you have with a potential lead or customer.

Not from the time they enter your store but at the website level and by referrals where your shop or name is mentioned to others.

Success Strategies: Be sure your brand personality or “voice” is ringing loud, clear and true to what you want to project. Too many websites are generic. People like to do business with a brand that is approachable. And they need to understand exactly what your shop is all about. Paint the picture with words, showroom photos, videos and try some  product demonstration videos too! Be of service to your audience.

Make an intentional habit to ask for reviews and referrals. In 2020 authentic reviews will be even more critical to establishing trust and relationships.

Make sure your team understands communication goals and is rewarded for pursuing positive feedback.


Partnering with other retailers who complement you to drive traffic to both of your shops, with vendors on special promotions and buy ins, and most importantly partnering with your own customers.

We like everyone to win with “add on” sales. The days of being a waitress have long since passed but no one ever sold more appetizers or desserts than me!

Success Strategies: With our slipcover line, we offer a second slipcover for half of the retail (MSRP) price- purchased at the same time as the sofa or chair.  This amounts to us writing one more line on a purchase order. How hard is that? We get more revenue, customer is over the moon and vendor has more sales too.

Customer centric strategies are a win for all.

2020 can be an exciting year of growth and adaptive change if you do not fear a new normal in retailing. Reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated!

See below for my sister holding the magazine at the Dallas Market…I surprised her and handed it to her- pretty cool to be on all the stands that is for sure!

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