Retail Is Not Dead – Sharing True Stories of Hope For Retail Stores
By Bob Phibbs
Looking for how to find hope for your retail business? You’ve come to the right place.
Many pundits are predicting the death of many retailers, so is there any hope for retail?
I’ve started a project called Hope for Retail. Each day I pick a brand or major retailer and share a story of encouragement. With retailers responsible for at least one in four jobs in America, it is easy for people working in retail to be discouraged, especially those associates working in physical stores. With all the negative news around the category, you’re not alone. But you must have hope.
Exactly how can hope make a difference to you and your business? It gives you back control.
My story of finding hope
I struggled after I had quit my job at a retailer which I helped build from a handful of stores to the largest in the US. I left the company after 14 years after I told one of the owners in a meeting that people were our most important asset and he said I was wrong.
I took some time off but floundered on what I wanted to do next. I had a very real fear that the only place for me was at another job in retail. I had felt hopeful when I walked out the door, but now my future felt daunting.
The story Tony Robbins shared
Lucky for me Tony Robbins was holding a live event at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. He relayed the story of a company who had struggled and struggled as their sales went down and down. The marketing guys had tried everything to boost sales of dried grapes but to no avail. In the 70’s, they had settled on the tagline the natural snack but soon every other product said the same thing. All seemed lost.
That’s when one guy brought hope to the meeting. Seth Werner said, “We have tried everything but dancing raisins singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine." The idea was a hit and provided millions in additional revenue and overcame people’s bad attitudes about raisins. At that point he invited all four of the original cartoon characters on stage while the song played. Sales soared. Records were broken. And the characters made their own albums.
As an entrepreneur struggling to overcome my own fears of starting my business, their story gave me hope. Tony continued to talk about the power of goals and hope and added, “You better come up with a brand no one can do better.” When I got home, I filed the trademark for The Retail Doctor and the rest as they say is history.
Why is hope so important?
When you have hope, you are looking forward. You take comfort and gain energy in the feeling of potential.
How does hope feel?
It is a sense of anticipation, of possibility, of curiosity. It’s that feeling you had when you went for your first date, had your first interview for a job, stood at the altar of your wedding, or had your first child.
Maybe your rational self might have tried to say, it might not work out, but your hope overtook that fear and moved forward. That’s what hope feels like, that even when you might be scared or have some reservations, you move forward.
With bad news on constant replay highlighting what might be happening in the future, retailers can forget they are by design optimistic.
There’s never been certainty if who you hire will work out, that will other be willing to pay you for, or that your marketing message will get people to return more often or buy more in your store. Yet, you have chosen to hope that happens in your favor.
Otherwise, you’d never have opened a retail store...or a Macy’s, or a Nordstrom, or a Pottery Barn.
No, hope is not a strategy. You need to take actions towards making your dreams come true, but without hope, strategy is worthless.
My secret to finding hope is to force your brain to look at things in the past that you succeeded at, then remember them in detail, and do this on a regular basis. This develops positive pathways in the brain that lead to good feelings and hope.
So how do you do that?
How to find hope at this time for your business.
Remember when you first started your business, or if you work for a retailer, how you felt on that first day.
Close your eyes.
Step back into that time.
Note any details of what you were wearing, what the room looks like, what others in the memory are looking at - the works.
Note that sense of expectation, the feeling you had when you made a sale, exceeded your goals, or made something happen.
Stay there in that memory until you feel that sense of anticipation and hope.
Keep your eyes closed and bring that same feeling from the past into the future.
See your store is open. It’s busy. You’re smiling.
Stay there in that future vision as long as you can while still feeling hopeful.
Open your eyes and take one action toward making that future happen.
The Hope For Retail Project
To help you find hope in your small business or retail store, I’m doing a live video highlighting one major retailer a day and sharing stories of purchases I’ve made with them over the years.
People who have discovered and purchased something new and interesting have a story about not only the product but the experience of discovering it.
Each day, I’m doing this to give hope to each employee who works for that brand. I want them to remember all their customers have stories and are eager to return to step into their curated world and discover something they hadn’t known they wanted. Yes, it is a project designed to spotlight large retailers due to their shear number of employees who are furloughed.
I've covered department stores like Macy's and Nordstrom and boutiques like Allen Edmonds and Pottery Barn. Tune in this week as I add Ralph Lauren and Kiton.
You can watch any of them or all of them. This playlist will update daily. You can also select individual retail brands at the bottom of this post.
If you work for one of these brands feel free to share with your team. After all, that's the point; your customers are waiting to return. Join them in hope.
Where will the trend of looking for hope go from here?
You can do this yourself. Just find a brand you like. Remember a personal story about you as a shopper and how you purchased an item, then share on your social media using the hashtag #hope4retail.
We can help lift the profile, the emotions, and the feeling of those working and shopping in physical retail if we just reorient our minds from fear and worry to hope.
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