Out of Business Luxury Chocolate Shop Gives Retail Sales Success Tactics

By Bob Phibbs

retail sales success tacticsIt was December of ’98 I was shopping in South Coast Plaza, singularly the highest grossing per square foot shopping center in the world.

I had come to purchase two small handmade, hand-decorated chocolate gift boxes at Trops, one of the smallest shops you can imagine. Here's a video they had posted of the shop.

I approached the counter, selected the items and as they were packaging them, I chatted with one of the workers. “You must really be doing well having been here so many years and with the economy so strong.”

“Actually, we’re closing at the end of the month,” came the reply. I couldn’t believe it. I asked to speak to the owner. She stepped up to talk with me.

“Yes, it’s really sad, but everyone wants only Godiva chocolate.”
“You’re kidding!” I said.
“And rents are too high.”
“Have you tried renegotiating the lease?”
“We’ve tried everything.”
“How about selling from another location?”
“No, we can’t move.”
“Did you try to sell the business?”
“No, the recipes are ours and we don’t want anyone else to have them.”

I still couldn’t believe my ears. I had just driven forty-five minutes out of my way in rush hour traffic to visit a specialty luxury niche retailer in one of the world’s premiere shopping destinations and they were telling me everyone wanted someone else!

It was really sad as their product was great but the die had been cast and they were out. If they'd stuck it out, here are some ideas I'd have offered and ones you too can use...

How to succeed in retail sales:

People. Hire a manager who believed in their unique product.

Web. Develop a website with point and click ways to personally design the chocolate boxes.

Location. Consider moving the store’s kitchen to an industrial park where overhead would be lower.

Outside sales. Hire an outside salesperson to sell the store as a source for personalized holiday gifts.

Market. Personally call on as many secretaries as possible with brochures touting the promotional aspect of the product, then repeat personal delivery of the fliers on a regular basis.

Target. Drop off a custom chocolate box with their company’s logo and the CEO’s name on it to the top 30 prospects.

Research. Find companies that do custom gifts and recognition awards and leave them similar samples.

List. Direct mail customer list with offer of a free gift with purchase. If no list was present, start one immediately.

In short, there were hundreds of things that could have been done but weren’t. I arrived at the scene to a business owner who couldn’t see the strength of their own luxury product or any options to make their business work. It was a business owner who didn’t have the tools to change course.

See also, Best Retail Consultant Case Studies Worth Reading

In Sum

While that was nearly 20 years ago, don't let that be you. You are going to hear more stories about retail businesses going bankrupt in January and probably blaming the economy or online retailers. But if you are willing to fight for your customers, there are plenty of things to do by looking in the mirror first!

This was originally from my first book, You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting. My most recent book is, The Retail Doctor's Guide to Growing Your Business (Wiley).

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