At least, that's the opinion I formed from shopping at stores that are either supremely confident that U.S. consumers are going to spend massive amounts of money on their mostly non-essential luxury items or clearly didn't feel the need to (re-)develop better business plans.
Off the top of my head, I'm not sure at what point a Knowledge Manager might be engaged to improve a businesses economic outlook, but this Knowledge Manager has a few ideas on how retailers might make some gains (or, at least, shake me down for a few more coins):
- Check your prices. Established businesses are working the sales like crazy (partly to move inventory, but also to minimize losses and maintain a steady flow of customers). However, new businesses opening in this economy (particularly small businesses) should re-think high price points if they are going to stay afloat in a difficult economy selling items that you can find at your competitor across the road. If high prices are necessary to break-even in your first few months, either consider pushing back the Grand Opening or finding less expensive retail space to reduce overhead. Or, you could just ignore this advice and crash and burn in month two - I bet I'll be able to get everything I wanted for a song. Everything? E-v-e-r-ything!
- Re-invest in sales.Personally, I don't credit JT with bringin' sexy back, but I'd sure like to know who the hell you've gotta call to bring salesmanship back.Just like big manufacturers discovered the missing value of in-house call centers in the '90s, it's high time that retailers rediscovered the lost art of sales. Not just pimpin' out some cheap hired help to ring up a purchase, but utilizing your salesforce to both move product and get the kind of one-on-one feedback that most non-retail businesses would kill to have in order to understand what customers are looking for. There's KM for ya! Knowing what your customers want and are willing to pay for, directly from their own mouth, will help businesses to stock moveable merchandise and build that oh-so-critical customer loyalty
- Revolutionize the mall.If there's one thing I think major retail outlets could do to single-handedly improve the U.S. economy it would be to revolutionize the shopping mall. These days shopping malls are the retail equivalent of the cookie cutter suburban housing development - uniformly pretty, convenient, bland as all-get-out. Because of the high cost of retail space in most successful malls, the barrier to entry is ridiculous leaving consumers with a directory of stores no different from any other mall. And, when businesses fail and must vacate, the effect on the mall is similar to that of a residential neighborhood - an unattractive, depressed, financially devalued community on the road towards mall death.
Imagine if, from the onset, malls set aside a slect amount of space specifically priced and marketed towards small, locally owned businesses, perhaps connecting with area university business and/or fashion programs and helping to establish budding entrepreneurs and designers; anchored stores could even be asked to help subsidize this program (particiulalry since their investment is the largest). In this way, each mall is differentiating themselves, attracting a more consistent flow of consumers, and more firmly investing in the local economy.