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Stand out by standing up!

 4 April 2022     Donald Cooper 

Whatever product or service you sell, your market is over-served and under-differentiated.  You need to stand out! One of the most effective ways to do this is to take a stand on something that matters to your target customers. My father used to say, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything!”

What do you ‘stand for’ that will differentiate your business, make powerful connections with your target customers and get you talked about, texted and tweeted about?

For example, 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.”

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

Next example. All-season vehicle tires are a bad compromise. They’re not great summer tires and they’re not very effective in winter weather. One tire expert told me that the worst winter tires are ten times more effective than all-season tires.

So, how could a tire store stand out in their crowded and undifferentiated marketplace? They could simply 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. How could you help your customers make wise choices by being their Caring Coach? The world needs more courageous and helpful 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.’ signs that were in every other fashion store.

Then, we didn’t ‘mark up to mark down’. This is the deceptive and illegal practice used by many stores to create fake savings. For example, they’d buy an item for $13, 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 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 will you stand up for and how will that help you stand out?

Here’s something else to think about:
Quote of the week: “All businesses sell stuff. Great businesses are on a mission to improve the human condition in some significant way. What ‘mission’ is your business on? What extraordinary outcomes are you committed to for your customers, your team, your community, for humanity – and for your bottom line?”

Quick business tip: When business partners or a family business, lack clarity and agreement or don’t get along, one of three things generally happens.

  1. They can’t agree, so they do nothing. The business grinds to a halt and slowly dies.
  2. They compromise on every key decision, settle on some watered-down course of action that makes the business boring, mediocre and uncompetitive, until it eventually dies.
  3. The partners go on the alternating, “It’s my turn to get my way, so were doing it my way!” It doesn’t matter whose idea is best for the business, “It’s my turn!” And the business eventually dies.

Some people just shouldn’t be in business together. They’re not a good fit and it will end badly.  Much of my business coaching deals with sorting this stuff out before it’s too late.

If you’re a partnership or family business, take a few minutes to have each partner or active family member, plus a few of your key non-partner or non-family managers, complete my Biz Tool #A-11: The Partnership and Family Business Audit Sheet. If you’d like help interpreting the results, I’m easy to find at

Word-of-mouth from trusted friends still wins. In spite of the hype about social media and lifestyle influencers, it appears good old ‘word-of-mouth referrals from trusted friends’ still wins.

In a recent survey of 40,000 people, three interesting facts came to light: Canadians are five to six times more likely to trust recommendations from people they know than text, banner or social media ads; 41% of Canadians don’t trust the advertising they see or hear; and, just 23% of Canadians trust endorsements from social media ‘influencers’, athletes or celebrities.

So, what extraordinary customer service, value and experiences do you consistently and joyfully deliver to deserve ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals from your raving fans?

That’s it for this week! Stay safe! Live brilliantly!

Sealy Canada
Stearns & Foster
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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