Independent Retailer is the leading trade publication for independent retail store owners. Independent Retailer connect retailers with timely, relevant information and provide a huge array of trusted suppliers of quality wholesale merchandise.
Bed Bath & Beyond is struggling. After seven back-to-back quarters of declining same-store sales, the company has announced that it’s reconsidering leases. Last month, the retailer also laid off 150 employees. It’s shares have dropped about 80 percent since Bed Bath & Beyond’s heyday in 2015. Now, the retailer is struggling to find investors, according to CNBC.
So, what went wrong? Essentially, Bed Bath & Beyond hasn’t adjusted their strategy to account for online shopping or any other recent change in consumer shopping behavior. Bed Bath & Beyond carries hundreds, if not thousands of other brands within their store. But, none of them are proprietary or private label. Which means, essentially, Bed Bath & Beyond doesn’t offer anything shoppers can’t get somewhere else.
A selection of non-unique products could still be profitable with the right customer experience. But, that’s not an area of focus for the retailer either. When you walk inside a Bed Bath & Beyond store, products are roughly grouped by categories like kitchen, home, bedding, and beauty. But, the stores are a maze to navigate and don’t offer clear signage.
Since Bed Bath & Beyond is not competing with product selection or the in-store experience, that means they are competing on price. If you’ve ever purchased from Bed Bath & Beyond, you may be familiar with the 20% off coupons they regularly send in emails, snail mail, and text message to customers to lure them into stores.
However, according to RetailWire, Bed Bath & Beyond announced they are limiting couponing as a means for driving in-store traffic. The company hopes to replace the standard 20% off coupons with more limited, but personalized offers. In-store, Bed Bath & Beyond also plans to focus on their growing selection of baby products, and customized products like engraved teddy bears. The company also plans to roll-out some proprietary brands, finally bringing something to the stores that shoppers can’t buy elsewhere.
But, for Bed Bath & Beyond, limiting coupons and then focusing on fixing the in-store experience is putting the cart before the horse. Right now, Bed Bath & Beyond’s biggest problem is the customer experience. According to CNN, Bed Bath & Beyond is piloting new “lab stores” that have a “greater emphasis on home decor, food and beverage, and health and beauty care.” The layouts of these stores are different, offering a better view of the merchandise. Sales in the experimental stores are 2.2% higher than traditional Bed Bath & Beyond stores, with customers spending more and the retailers earning higher margins.
So what’s the takeaway for retailers? There are a few lessons to be learned from Bed Bath & Beyond’s recent missteps:
Don’t Rely on Couponing and Discounts.
Coupons and discounts have their place in loyalty programs. But if every shopper is using a coupon, that means your prices are either inflated or your margins are being severely damaged. Neither of these are good for brand longevity.
Offer Proprietary Products.
Offering something shoppers can’t get anywhere else is a must for driving traffic and in-store sales. Proprietary brands also help build your store’s identity.
Constantly Reevaluate the In-Store Experience.
Today’s shoppers have more retail choices than ever. If you want shoppers to continue to return to your store, you have to impress them each time they shop. A clean store layout with easy navigation and clear signage is critical.
National Retail Solutions (NRS) offers a robust, easy-to-use, point of sale (POS) system specially designed for grocery, convenience, liquor and tobacco retailers. The POS, which offers tools to control costs, optimize inventory, and process transactions efficiently, comes with a built-in customer loyalty program. The POS also offers seamless, optional integration with newly launched NRS PAY (and almost all other credit card processors), for a one-stop shop.
Elie Y. Katz, founder, President & CEO, says NRS is a division of IDT corporation, which has provided products and services to over 40,000 retailers nationwide. Since the founding of National Retail Solutions in 2015, over 8,000 NRS POS systems have been deployed across the United States.The recently launched NRD PAY offers retailers low-rate credit card processing with options for tap, dip, swipe, or keyed in payments.
“No more being ripped off by card-processing companies — or your neighbor, cousin or family member in the card processing business, promising that they want to save you money. With the integrity on which NRS was founded, we are looking out for our customers, big and small,” says Katz.
NRS is used by retailers nationwide, and is a best fit for small and midsize grocery, bodegas, convenience, liquor and tobacco retailers. Katz continues, ““Bodegas and other independent retailers are hungry for tools to help them compete against large retail chains and big box stores. We feel for small businesses, who struggle for survival while up against bigger, bolder competitors. Our POS platform helps convenience stores boost sales and gain new customers, Plus, our mobile app makes it easy for store owners to manage their operations, whether they are in the store, at home or on the road.”
The NRS point of sale system and NRS PAY card processing help merchants organize their business, attract more customers, make more money and save money with top quality credit card processing. NRS takes technology seriously, and is constantly improving the POS to make it more powerful and to help retailers succeed. NRS PAY credit card processing can be conveniently bundled with the NRS POS, or each can be purchased separately. Many POS companies require that customers use their credit card processing services, where NRS does not. Visit NRSplus.com to learn more about their POS system, loyalty software, and payment processing solutions.
National Retail Solutions A division of IDT Corporation
Tel.: 833-289-2767 www.Nrsplus.com
A University of Toronto, Scarborough, researcher has found that small businesses are held to higher customer service standards because shoppers expect them to be more friendly, honest, and helpful than large or chain stores. The research, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, looked at how company size not only affects customer expectations, but also how customers react differently to bad behaviour by small and large companies.
“It feels very wrong when a small business mistreats us because we expect them to be warmer and friendlier,” says co-author Pankaj Aggarwal, a marketing professor in U of T Scarborough’s Department of Management. “On the other hand, we don’t expect larger companies to be particularly warm or friendly, so when they fail to be nice it doesn’t come as a big surprise.” In other words, customers end up having a stronger negative reaction to being treated rudely by small businesses because they don’t expect it.
Across five studies, Aggarwal and co-author Linyun Yang, an assistant professor at the Darla School of Business at the University of South Carolina, found perceptions of size affect consumer expectations for behaviours that are described as communal — meaning more friendly, caring, honest and helpful. By contrast, perceived size did not affect whether customers expect a company to be efficient, effective or organized.
Aggarwal says customers’ differing perceptions likely stem from our expectations about power. We expect a powerful CEO to behave in a certain way compared to someone in an entry level position, he says. In the same way, that power based on employee status, socio-economic standing, and gender shapes expectations of people, Aggarwal finds that power based on size can also shape expectations for small and large companies.
It feels very wrong when a small business mistreats us because we expect them to be warmer and friendlier.”
“We often romanticize small businesses,” says Aggarwal, whose past research looked at brand anthropomorphism, the idea that we often give human traits to companies and products. “We are drawn to them because they are unique, offer locally made items or create an authentic experience. But because they lack relative power in the marketplace, they have to be nicer to their suppliers, their vendors, and most importantly, their customers.”
Aggarwal and Yang note that it was the perception of size, and not absolute size, that really drives customer expectations For example, in one study they compared Yelp data from Peet’s Coffee in Boston, where there are only six locations, and in San Francisco, where there are 26 stores. They found that average Yelp ratings dropped nearly one star in Boston, where the retailer was perceived as small, when the reviews mentioned behaviour that was low on warmth and friendliness.
“This means companies may have more control over customer expectations than previously thought,” adds Aggarwal. “If a company is perceived as lacking warmth or friendliness for example, they could pre-empt the criticism by positioning itself as a larger company.”
Meanwhile, some large companies intentionally brand themselves as being smaller than they actually are. Aggarwal says while this can help with their image as being warm and friendly, it also means they may suffer more when they fail to live up to those expectations.
The research also highlights an apparent advantage large companies have, which is an ability to be less warm and friendly without incurring extra punishment relative to their smaller competitors. “Customers may perceive a company like Amazon as less warm and friendly than a smaller competitor, and they may punish Amazon less when it engages in that behaviour,” he says.
We live in a very digitally-conscious age where anyone can do virtually anything with a smartphone. Consumers can make a bill payment, purchase products online, and store their credit card information in their phones so there’s no need to carry around a wallet. As easy and convenient as all of these things are, the protection of customers’ data is a serious issue, and it all starts with them trusting the retailer from whom they buying.
As small and independent retailers continue to meet consumers’ demand with new technology and phone services, the risks for fraud and data protection grow. Customers need to know that they are buying from reputable retailers and that their information is being protected, otherwise you can say “goodbye” to any future sales from them.
It’s Kind of a Big Deal
In a survey conducted by Emailage with with 1,000 people in leadership roles in small to mid-sized businesses in the U.S. and Canada, research found that nearly half (48.4%) of these businesses believe they are “not big enough” to be targeted by fraudsters. More than a third (38%) still do not rank fraud as a top business concern.
Speaking about the findings, Rei Carvalho, CEO of Emailage, explained: “This research shows a lack of concern among many small and medium-sized business owners when it comes to fraud prevention. These businesses work with considerably smaller profit margins. Therefore, losing even a fraction of their revenue could have major repercussions for their businesses, impacting long-term growth and business development.”
In the last twelve months, companies with fewer than 49 employees were hit particularly hard as they reported an average of $37,258.14 lost to fraud. Meanwhile, fraud losses reported by larger businesses in the U.S. averaged $26,640.40 and $14,673 in Canada, according to the survey. This research debunks the myth around small businesses not needing to worry about online fraud, and provided advice to these businesses on how to protect themselves against online dangers.
Here’s What You Can Do
The survey also provided some common solutions that small to medium-sized businesses use for fraud prevention, such as email verification, third-party payment processing, IP address trackers, banning fraudulent accounts, and reconciling accounts daily. The most common solution is email verification, with almost 40% of businesses using this method.
“Harnessing these technological solutions can be an ideal way for small and mid-sized businesses to protect themselves and their customers from the damaging effects of fraud, all while saving time, money and labor,” Carvalho said. “With such systems in place, SMBs can be confident that they are able to provide a great experience for their customers, and have the security they need to grow and thrive into the future.”
Most Consumers Aren’t Confident Their Data is Well Protected
According to a recent study by NTT DATA Services and Oxford Economics, only 20% of consumers are confident their data is adequately protected by the retailers with whom they do business. If they are not confident they can trust your business with their information, they’ll be less likely to shop from your store.
“The idea of earning trust has to go well beyond the point of sale,” Matt Leach, Vice President of NTT DATA Services, said. “Retailers need to demonstrate meaningful value proposition for consumers to be able to share personal data. Supermarkets have done this for years in the form of discounts, so there’s a reason for a customer to share personal information.”
Nearly all surveyed retailers have experienced a recent security breach, yet only about one-third have strong protections in place for their customers’ personal or financial information. According to Leach, these organizations have clearly violated the trust they had built with customers, so when given a choice those customers will move on elsewhere.
Consumer trust will be one of the greatest competitive advantages that a company can possess in the opt-in economy. The more you know about your customers and how to better serve them, the deeper that level of trust becomes, according to the NTT DATA Services report. It’s important to use customer data to offer a personalized experience, but it’s a balancing act.
On top of keeping your security services in check, retailers also need to constantly improve their use of customer data. Customers want the organizations they engage with to use data to improve products, services, and experiences. Consider customizing and personalizing products, or equipping employees with the tools and skills to use data to make informed suggestions. Your goal is to simplify and enhance the customer experience and relationship.
“I think if you look at the future of retail, the idea of personalized shopping and recommendations enabled by consumer data is what retailers need in order to provide experiences,” Leach said. “This use of data provides the opportunity for differentiation between retailers.”
According to Techopedia, showrooming is “when a shopper visits a store to check out a product but then purchases the product online… This occurs because, while many people still prefer seeing and touching the merchandise they buy, many items are available at lower prices through online vendors. As such, local stores essentially become showrooms for online shoppers.”
For indie retailers, having a shopper visit your store only to end up purchasing similar products online from another source sounds like a worst-case scenario. But, there are many steps you can take to minimize showrooming in your store.
1. Offer User Support
Offer a warranty or dedicated customer support for shoppers that buy in-person. This is especially effective with electronic and appliance products. The expertise of your associates is also a draw for shoppers who aren’t sure exactly what they’re looking for, or are trying to decide between a few options.
2. Start a Private Label
One surefire way to combat showrooming is by selling products that shoppers can’t buy anywhere else. Plus, starting a private label is a great way to help build your brand identity. This is a strategy that even larger retailers, such as Target, tap into.
3. Host Events
Hosting an event at your store is another way to encourage shoppers to buy directly from your business. It can be a shopping event, or a ticketed event for a craft or painting night, live music, or a contest. You can also host a pop-up event and invite other local businesses into your store.
4. Offer Store Credit
Many shoppers browse products in-store but end up buying online because they are price conscious and searching for the best deal. Offering store credit, financing, or other flexible payment solutions, such as instalment plans, is one way to appeal to price-conscious shoppers without sacrificing your margins.
5. Become a Specialty Shop
If you carve out a niche or specialty, you are likely to become the go-to destination for those specific products. For example, instead of a general pet store, maybe focus on natural or organic pet supplies. If you’re a toy store, carve out a section of your business to dedicate to locally made or locally invented toys. Cater to a more specific market and offer shoppers an experience they can’t find online.
6. Use a Loyalty Program
A loyalty program can encourage shoppers to purchase items from your store over another. Punch cards are the simplest kind of loyalty program, but points-based rewards where customers earn points for every amount they spend are also popular, especially if shoppers can choose from a few different rewards.
7. Train Your Employees
It’s harder to lose a sale to showrooming when you provide great customer service. If you and your employees acknowledge and are friendly toward everyone that walks into your store, that alone will go a long way to encourage shoppers to buy from you.
8. Embrace Customization
According to Forbes, “Your customers want to design or influence the look and feel of their purchases, so give them the opportunity to do just that. Forrester research reveals that 35 percent of shoppers are interested in purchasing custom products, particularly in categories where they can stand out from their peers. This number is only growing today. Giving your customers exactly what they want will cement their loyalty and engagement.”
9. Offer Price Matching
If you know customers are leaving your store to purchase on Amazon, consider matching Amazon’s prices. Train associates to mention the policy to customers who bring up buying online or who mention seeing different prices elsewhere.
10. Follow Up with Customers
Even if a shopper doesn’t purchase from you right away, have strategies or processes in place for following up with them so that your business stays on the top of their mind. Many POS systems include features for email marketing, and even retargeting campaigns if the shopper also visited your website.
11. Promote Shopping Local
Most people know that spending dollars at local businesses is a better investment in the community than spending at chain stores. Have signage in your store thanking customers for supporting local businesses, and reminding them what happens when they patronize a local business.
Showrooming can seem scary for indie retailers. Seeing a customer walk into your store, only to leave and purchase products elsewhere is tough. But, the good news is, most shoppers are actually doing the opposite. 46 percent of all shoppers showroom, but 69 percent of shoppers webroom. In other words, 69 percent of shoppers browse online before visiting your store to purchase. So, rest assured, the odds are in your favor.
This is an event you don’t want to miss! Lancaster County’s Wholesale Mall has proudly been marketing quality, American Made products for 14 years. Join them on May 13th &14th for a huge Anniversary Celebration. They have hundreds of free products that will be given out at check-out while supplies last. Every $100 you spend you will receive a ticket to enter for a chance to win one of their three grand prizes. Two lucky buyers will win $500 store credit sponsored by Keystone Cash & Carry and A&L Iron Works. One lucky buyer will win their booth giveaway valued over $1,000. There will be breakfast sandwiches and more delicious food served throughout the day. With tons of parking, it’s a great day to bring your trucks and trailers and stock-up.
Lancaster County’s Wholesale Mall has over 80 manufacturers under one roof, creating a one-stop shopping experience for wholesale buyers. They are opened year-round and have freight and shipping options available. To stay updated with their events, new products, vendor updates, and more follow Lancaster County’s Wholesale Mall on Facebook and Instagram. You can also visit their website at www.LancasterWholesaleMall.com
Keystone Wholesale Cash & Carry Mall 180 Greenfield Road, Suite 1, Lancaster, PA 17601
Tel: 717-295-2570 Fx: 717-295-2576
Open Year-Round Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
1st Saturday of each month 9am-1pm
Foxyware creates unique personal beauty designs that combine the latest appliqués such as Swarovski crystals, rhinestones, rhinestuds, nailheads, sequins, and pearls with fashion-forward apparel and accessories. Foxyware offers a variety of standout t-shirts, dresses, tote bags, belt bags, and a new line of rhinestone coffee mugs.
One of Foxyware’s newest and most innovative product lines are their LED eyelashes. LED Glowing Luminous Lashes are safe, lightweight, reuseable, and easy to apply. They do not get hot or harm your eyes. Each eyelash set comes in a tiny box with a controller unit for each eyelash, a battery, clips, and eyelash glue. Users clip the controller underneath their hair in the back of their head and press the controller button to switch lighting modes and turn the LED lights on or off.
The eyelash boxes are customizable, so retailers that purchase LED Glowing Luminous Lashes can place their store name or logo on the products. Eyelashes come in blue, pink, red, white, green and orange. Minimum order for custom packaging is 50 pieces.
Foxyware does not charge setup fees or art fees for wholesale orders. They also offer free proof corrections and quick turnaround times. Transfer products such as rhinestone t-shirts have just a 12-piece minimum. Contact Foxyware for more information and to open a wholesale account.
Over the past few years, malls have been trying to repurpose vacant space from lost retail tenants. Many property managers sought to replace traditional retail stores with more experience-driven attractions like gyms, restaurants, arcades, and more. But, according to CNBC, these new experiences are not drawing in any extra traffic.
That does not mean mixed use spaces don’t work. Last year, we profiled Stanley Market, a mixed-use indie marketplace full of retailers, breweries, local cuisine, boutique fitness studios, office space, and more. It seems that the key to successful mixed use spaces is finding a complementary attraction that offers a captive audience.
Retail Dive recently profiled an independent retailer named Take Care. As you may guess, Take Care is a self-care themed store with a soothing ambiance reminiscent of a spa. Store owner Becky Waddell told Retail Dive that shoppers would remark on how they wish they could stay and hang out in the store. So, she added coworking space as a service within Take Care. Overall, the space focuses on building a community where shoppers and workers feel welcome and at peace. In addition to coworking space, Take Care also offers beauty and grooming services, and a variety of classes on sustainable living, beauty, and more.
Office Depot has also added coworking spaces to several of their retail stores in the past year. According to Chain Store Age, “The dedicated coworking space at Office Depot offers a range of options, from private offices and conference rooms to dedicated desks and daily drop-ins, along with several membership plans. Customers have access to mailing, shipping, marketing, printing, concierge services, tech support and more. Members also receive exclusive access to events, speaking engagements and other networking opportunities hosted at the space.”
Office Depot says coworking is a natural extension of their retail stores because they have all of the necessary office supplies, business services, and IT support right there. According to Forbes, the change in how people are choosing to work is influencing how people choose to shop. “We’re seeing the lines between coworking and retail start to blur — and that has positive implications for brick-and-mortar stores.”
In addition to retailers adding these areas, coworking spaces are starting to add retail. WeWork launched a retail component called WeMRKT that allows coworking customers to sell their products, serving as a test pilot before going to market or to get feedback before launching new merchandise.
Retail and coworking may prove to be a dream partnership. It’s an effective way of placing products in front of a captive audience while also mitigating some of the harsh expenses associated with operating a brick and mortar storefront. Plus, there’s plenty of opportunity for sales. Retail Dive reports “43% of employed U.S. workers will be remote at least some of the time and flexible coworking spaces will grow to 30% of all office stock by 2030. The concept may drive a high-end consumer into those spaces, too, with the average household income within a 3-mile radius of a coworking retail space coming in at $100,000.”
The Man Can is Plum Island Soap company’s best-selling gift set. The Man Can is a gift bucket filled with men’s grooming products including soap, shave gel, oil, an exfoliating mitt, and moisturizing hand butter. The all-natural grooming products have manly spicy and woodsy scents, and are packaged in a unique paint can container.
In addition to The Man Can, Plum Island Soap offers many individual bath and body products for men, women, and baby. Other popular men’s items include Fisherman’s Scrub Soap made with anise oil, blue poppy seeds and a black licorice scent.
Plum Island’s hydrating spray mists are another best-selling product that is perfect for spring and summer gift-giving. The 4-ounce mists come in cucumber, rosewater, lavender, and sunshine scents. The sprays are great for using as a facial toner after cleansing or as a refreshing spray throughout the day.
Incorporating grooming products into your store as gift baskets or bundles is a great way to introduce shoppers to the products. With Father’s Day, weddings and graduations looming in the coming months, people who receive the gifts are likely to come back and purchase items individually. Overall, bath and body gift products are a great way to expand your customer base and build demand. Contact Plum Island Soap Company for wholesale pricing.
Plum Island Soap Company, LLC 205 Northern Boulevard
Newburyport, MA 01950
Tel.: 978-465-0238 www.plumislandsoap.com
Are you a true digital native who runs your ecommerce store from multiple electronic platforms and devices? If so, IRCE may be the one trade show you need to attend this year. Built as the original one-stop-shop for e-retailers, the upcoming 2019 conference and trade show will offer retailers all that your digital business needs to stay on-trend and ahead of the ever-present competition. New for 2019, IRCE will co-locate with sister shows GlobalShop and RFID Journal LIVE! Retail, forming one cohesive show known as RetailX. Taking place in the heart of the windy city of Chicago, June 25-28, 2019 at McCormick Place, this year’s upcoming IRCE show will once again be breaking new ground.
Offering over 130 informational and educational sessions on a wide array of topics that are central to ecommerce store owners everywhere, the strength of the IRCE show is in its curated content. The roster of speakers and session leaders is without comparison to other shows, and offers attendees a rich environment where open communication and networking are the name of the game. The show’s packed agenda is created using input from the industry-leading editorial team at Internet Retailer magazine, providing attendees with in-depth workshops and hands-on experiences covering covering topics that matter.
The conference offers three comprehensive session tracks on Tuesday June 25: Ecommerce technology, Amazon & Me, and Ecommerce Boot Camp: Muscle Up to Grow. On Wednesday, experts cover Strategic Guidance for C-Suite Execs, Omnichannel Goals, Marketing Vitals, Building Brand Value, and What to Bet On for the Digital Future. Thursday’s focus areas including Thriving in the Amazon Age, the Power of Marketplaces, Advanced Marketing Strategies, Optimized Operations, and Online Merchandising.
While you’re at the conference, be sure to check out the hundreds of exhibitors in the IRCE hall, offering nearly 600 top technology vendors, ranging from security to RFID to retail site design and payment technology, the exhibit hall will be packed with vendors suited exclusively to ecommerce retailers and merchants. And, your entry pass to IRCE will also give you access to the RFID Journal Live! Retail and GlobalShop show floors, combined in 2019 to form RetailX.
IRCE @ RetailX will be held June 25 – 27, 2019 at McCormick Place, Chicago. For additional details on the IRCE conference agenda and speakers, or to find travel and hotel discounts and deals, register at www.irce.com.