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Stand out by standing up!

 8 March 2018     Donald Cooper 

My father used to say, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything!” What do you ‘stand for’ that could differentiate your business, make powerful connections with your target customers and get you talked about, texted and tweeted about?

Long before it became illegal for pharmacies in Ontario to sell tobacco products, some gutsy pharmacists took a stand and removed all tobacco products from their stores. They said, “We’re in the healthcare business and tobacco addiction is one of this country’s biggest healthcare problems. We will be part of the solution – not part of the problem.”

Many consumers went out of their way to do business with these pharmacies who gave up a revenue stream to support a principle.

Here’s another example: all-season vehicle tires are a bad compromise. They’re not great summer tires and they’re not effective in winter weather. One tire expert told me the worst winter tires are 10 times more effective than all-season tires. So, how could a tire store stand out in their crowded and undifferentiated marketplace? They could refuse to sell all-season tires and then explain why and back it up with facts. That’s gutsy, but it could be very effective. They’d probably get a lot of media attention and, along with it, a ton of credibility. The world needs more courageous truth-sayers.

Some years ago, as a retailer of ladies fashions, we took gutsy and courageous stands on several issues.  We were the first (and only) fashion store in the world to invite women to “Please take as many items in the change room as you wish.” Women hated the ‘limit three items in the change rooms’ rule that seemed to reign in every other fashion store.

We also didn’t mark up to mark down. This is a deceptive and illegal practice used by many stores to create fake savings.  For example, they pay $13 for an item, have it ticketed at $54.95 and then immediately mark it down to ‘Special Sale…$34.95’. Not only did we not do that, we called out our competitors out this deceptive practice and promised never to do it. Customers loved us for being straight with them.

The prevailing wisdom in fashion retail at the time was that to succeed, your sales staff had to be on commission. But we wanted our staff to be helpful, not pushy. So, we put a big sign at the front door saying, “Our staff are not on commission. They treat you this well because they love what they do!” And then, we hired joyful people and treated them wonderfully.

We also had electric massage chairs for husbands and boyfriends; a $54,000 pirate ship play area for kids; free diapers, wipes and cream for babies; and, seven kinds of free beverages for everybody – all gutsy acts of kindness that nobody else offered.

Our policy was simple: “No games, no tricks, no lies!” We stood out, we got talked about, women drove up to three hours to shop with us, we achieved sales per square foot three times the national average – and we were voted Canada’s Outstanding Innovative Retailer by the Retail Council of Canada.

So, what are the myths, misconceptions and deceptive practices in your industry on which you could take a courageous stand? How could you become the ‘caring coach’, the ‘trusted and respected authority’, the ‘hero’ in your market? How could you stand out by standing up?

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This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.

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Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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