Together we remade his business to fight the corporate giant. And we didn’t make it a pity party, we made it a game that poked fun at Starbucks as ordinary coffee. We improved the customer experience, the retail sales training, the employees and the environment.
Once sales were up 50%, I brought two other coffeehouse owners together to form the Long Beach Coffee Alliance. To jumpstart the PR, I took a picture of the three of them in front of the very Starbucks that is closing today. It got some great press.
While one of the three sold his business and moved to Italy and another transformed his into a franchise, Mike loved his location and was up for the David v. Goliath battle.
And he knew enough to listen to me. Even when it hurt to admit I was right.
“I wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor.” – Mike Sheldrake
It was the right time, and we were the right people.
How do you make today the right time for you and your brand?
Don’t be one of the many hair salons, toy stores, gift stores, teacher’s supply stores, hardware stores, jewelry stores and other retailers that have given up and closed their doors. Don’t ignore the changing signs of a shifting marketplace:
Decreased customer counts
Promotions not working
Today, the signs can be a bit more muddied as the very people smiling at you on the street, could be shopping your competitor from their smartphone as they pass your retail store.
Mike didn’t stay stuck in fear; he persevered doing the only thing he could do – work on his own four walls. (Read more about the case study here.)
"We understood the battle is never over," says Sheldrake, whose coffeehouse is still healthy and boasts over $1 million in annual sales.
Some said that Starbucks had crossed the line with their tough, competitive practice that made no economic sense and served only to wipe out rivals.
It took 15 years, but this week the folly of opening a second location apparently became evident to the Starbucks team.
One thing didn’t change for Mike - where there’s hope, there’s a way.
To compete you still have to:
Move from hopelessness to battle cry
Be open to new ideas
Do things you stopped doing once you got busy
Inspect what you expect
Reinvent your business from the ground up
It’s simple, whether you are a luxury retailer, gourmet deli or any retailer in the world.
You can’t just have the best products small business owners.
You have to give customers a reason to purchase…
Unless you start with your customers, you’ll end up distracted, thinking that success will happen if you hold more sales or just educate potential customers on the importance of buying local.
Customers already know you are local.
Instead of trying to educate them, give them a reason to buy from you. It’s the soundest advice I can give you and the same retail advice I’ve given to numerous successful retail clients for more than twenty years.
If it hadn’t been for that Starbucks, there wouldn't have been a makeover, and there may be no Retail Doctor. And yet here I am and here is Polly’s, both still here and thriving.