Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Awaiting the Rebates

The squeeze is on in our economy and the consumers are feeling it.

The government hopes that the economic stimulus program will encourage consumers to spend, spend, spend.

According to a recent NRF/BIG research study, consumers plan to spend one third of their $600-$1200 rebate checks on necessities/groceries. While this puts a slight damper on things for college stores, the study also suggests that $3.9 billion will go to apparel, $3.7 billion to electronics, and $2.1 billion on "splurge/impulse" items--all things that most college stores carry in some form or another.

May is a time of extra cash in pockets (buyback) and high emotions (end of term and graduation). It's a time when stores should be ready for inpulse purchases of gifts, keepsakes, insignia, and other general merchandise. The pending rebates should only enhance this situation.

So you should be getting ready to sell, sell, sell!

Tony Ellis, CAE

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some Things to Think About

A few days ago I posted about Steven Little's book. Another tip of his (to better understand your market and business) is to subscribe to as many magazines as you can in order to scan your environment, your customer's world, your industry, etc.

I read a lot of magazines. Well, skim a lot, reading parts. And in the last few days I've run across some interesting statements and bits of content that got me thinking about the work of college stores. Just some things to think about:

-- Innovation is the pre-requisite for sustained growth.

-- Price only becomes an issue if you don't win loyalty on experience and/or product.

-- Retail Experience means nothing if it's not unique.

-- Consider these examples of "retail purpose in action":
- Communicating an iconic brand: Target
- Celebrating customer service: Nordstrom
- Creating a proprietary language to tell the business' story: Starbucks
- Delivering a exciting product: Nike

Gleaning these statements from my casual skimming of 3-4 magazines this weekend told me several things:

1) Steven is right. We should all increase the scope of our reading to stay better informed about our industry, our businesses, our customers, etc.

2) We don't have to commit hours and hours to reading in order to find thought-provoking ideas and tidbits that can spark new ideas for our personal and professional lives.

3) Inspiring ideas and engaging concepts don't always come from industry publications. I'm not knocking industry publications. But rather encouraging you to open your mind to new sources of information and inspiration.

So if you've been wondering how to justify that subscription of Simple Life, Entertainment Weekly, or Popular Science...here you go!

Tony Ellis, CAE

Friday, April 25, 2008

Building the Business from the Basics

In my role at NACS HQ I solicit, review, and select (or not) professional speakers for CAMEX and a few other programs. As you might guess, I get a LOT of invitations to read books, consider presenters, and otherwise contemplate hiring professional speakers.

Today I picked up Steven Little's book, The 7 Irrefutable Rules of Small Business Growth (Wiley, 2005). I saw Steven speak at a conference last year and have him on the "potential" list for CAMEX 2009 in Anaheim. After cruising through the first 4 chapters of his book--which reminded me of many things from his presentation--I'd have to say you might just see this fellow on one of our stages next March.

I would recommend the book. Easy read and good content. And of course, I thought..."This is a blog post."

So, I'm here to share two teasers with The Muse crowd to give you something to ponder in your spare time. Hey! I'm a middle-aged, single guy. What else am I going to do on a Friday night?

Rule 1: Establish and Maintain a Strong Since of Purpose
Suggested Next Step 3 (Little explains each Rule in a chapter and then ends with "Suggested Next Steps--what YOU are to do to act on the content.)
--Write down your organization's sense of purpose, including whom you want to serve, how you serve them, and the highest goal of the organization. Be sure it is clear, unique, and credible. (pg 67)

-> Editorial:
Can you do this? Many college stores do not have a vision or mission statement. Often, we overlook the importance of having a central, understood, and communicable raison d'etre. Every house must have a firm foundation.

Rule 4: Develop Customer-Driven Processes
Suggested Next Step 3
-- List all the ways you currently "touch" customers. Prioritize each based on how important it is to a CUSTOMER. Set about improving the priorities.

-> Editorial: The vast majority of our customers (students) are changing all the time. Indeed, they change completely every 3-5 years. Their standards for our operations are set by the full expanse of retailers available to them. One of our best strategies for meeting their needs is to understand the touchpoints and interactions as THEY experience them, determine which ones should stay or go, and ramp up the ones we decide to keep!

Core purpose and focusing on the customer. Does it get any better than that?

In a market that is continuously being challenged by new competitors--building (maintaining?) our businesses must start by evaluating and re-enforcing at the core.

That said, I guess the rest of my Friday night is at the mercy of cable TV. Wish me luck!

Tony Ellis, CAE

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Whole New Mind...Again

I was recently at a conference and heard Dan Pink give a keynote presentation.

You might remember Dan Pink and the presentation he gave at CAMEX a few years ago based on his book A Whole New Mind and the transition from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.

My recent opportunity to hear Dan was my third. His message on the importance of design, the impact of "story", and the preeminence of "right brain" abilities going forward resonated as clearly for me now as they did when I first heard him in 2004.

With that revelation, I decided to post about Dan and his wonderful book. To ask you, "Have you read it?"

-- If not, you should.
-- If you have, read it again.

Dan's points, examples, and recommendations are as poignant for retailers as for any others.

Great book. Great message.

Tony Ellis, CAE

Friday, April 11, 2008

Going Green with even Greater Purpose

Reusable shopping bags are big. Stores are offering them to save the evironment, but are finding other benefits along the way:

- Reduced quantities of plastic bags are needed

- Enriched connections are made with customers who appreciate the chance to do a little good by using the bags

- Visibility of the store is enhanced when the bags are returned to the store (or other places--as in my case--the gym, the dry cleaners, the park, the beach, the farmers market....)

While in New York not long ago, I saw two enhancements to this already exciting program. The first was in a college store. The second in a specialty grocery.

1. NYU Bookstores uses Green Bag as a source for their reusable shopping bags. But the neat part is when you choose to buy one. Buying one of these bags from the store earns you a "wooden nickle" (actually worth a quarter, I think) to put in one of four bins on your way out. See the pic above. That's donating real "coin" to the charity of your choosing. Wow! That's doing good, from doing good, that promises to help you do good later, as well. Pretty good!

2. At the Food Emporium, at the Queens Street Bridge, they take a slightly different approach. Still a choice of purchasing a reusable shopping bag with proceeds benefitting one of 3-4 charities. But for they took a specialty/gift approach and created four different bags--each with a rich imprint tied to the charity that would benefit from your purchase. Think Bengal tiger for the zoo or a bamboo-munching panda for the National Wildlife Federation.

Two great twists on an already great concept!

Tony Ellis, CAE

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dynamic Displays and Cool Ideas!

Everyone loves to get new ideas--for displays, for sales, for windows, for events.

NACS recently announced the winners of two contests--Dynamic Displays and Cool Ideas--that offer numerous ideas.

Give yourself a shot of inspiration. Review all of this year's entries for both contests and see what you can use at your own store! The winners of each contest are marked with a star. Click on any listed entry to see a photo and details.

Please note that the contest information is for NACS Members only--in the Member Resource Center. So you'll have to log in when you click either link below. Appologies to any non-member readers of The Retail Muse!

Dynamic Displays: www.nacs.org/members/secure/the_college_store/dynamicdisplays.asp

Cool Ideas
: www.nacs.org/members/secure/the_college_store/coolideas.asp

Have fun!

The Retail Muse