What are the BIG QUESTIONS today's retailers are asking?



There are many challenges and frustrations that go hand in hand with running a business. Lynda Kavanagh and Karen Kritzer participated in roundtable discussions at the Alberta Gift Fair in February with a variety of small retailers. Here, they take the pulse on the main concerns that business owners from across the country face on a daily basis. This was also a great platform to share success stories and to inspire one another, which is often an overlooked component.


Q?How can I generate traffic and increase dwell time?

Karen Kritzer

Retailers can feel the frustration of having highs and lows in customer traffic through their store. Many factors can contribute to this. It is important to step back and really look and see if the basics are covered. A few examples would be:

• Do I have available parking?
• Are the store hours in line with other retailers and are my customers happy with them?
• Do I have knowledgeable sales personnel?

Once the basics are covered it is time to look at creative ways to drive traffic. The first step is to develop a calendar that sets out events and promotions for the entire year. This should be in line with the overall marketing strategies, and of course be reflected on social media channels. When in doubt look to the calendar and think about what people are doing each month, and what their needs are. Partner with other local retailers to create cross-promotional events.


Q?How can I fit social media into my schedule?

Lynda Kavanagh

Karen is right when it comes to establishing a calendar of activities that is in line with your overall marketing strategy which also means setting a budget for both money and time. The biggest complaint when it comes to social media is the time it takes. This can be made easier by having a calendar with your planned promotions or events. Then when you do have a few minutes of slow time, you can develop your social media content and photos. There is online software out there to help you schedule your social media posts. I like Hootsuite.com but there is a mess of them — just Google “Social Media Management Software” and take your pick. Now, of course when it comes to your social media messaging, remember to keep your brand in mind, i.e. images, messages and the overall philosophy of why your business exists.


Q?How do I select a merchandising strategy?

Karen Kritzer

It can be confusing and overwhelming wondering which approach to take with in-store merchandising. Retailers seem to have a hard time deciding to feature a lot of one product, or to go the other end of the spectrum, and feature less. There is a great way to approach this. Ask yourself, do I want volume? Or, in contrast, do I want more of a lifestyle presentation? Volume speaks to a big mass of one item and generally as consumers we are trained to expect a lower price, knowing that most likely the retailer has acquired some type of “deal” by the large buy. Lifestyle speaks to the coordination of a complete look. This gives the impression to the customer that there is one size of each item, and it has a more exclusive feel. A big trend on the market today is to have well-curated collections which offer the customer well-styled looks. They can have that “here today, gone tomorrow" feel which can push the action to buy. This also keeps the store fresh and creates vitality. Volume or lifestyle are both effective, the key is to have the presentation complement the store interior and the brand.


Q?What is the best way to get involved with my community?

Lynda Kavanagh

Volume and lifestyle are absolutely essential when it comes to complimenting your brand. Your overall brand can be fragmented if you don’t match the trends and presentations you offer in your store. Another way businesses unknowingly fragment their brand is not connecting their community involvement with the company’s brand. All businesses should be involved in the community — that’s a given — but I recommend selecting your business’ community involvement by leveraging your marketing. If part of your brand is about helping people, don’t make your primary community contribution to the Humane Society; a better one would be helping at a food bank or working with the homeless. Save the Humane Society as your personal community commitment. Customers like to see businesspeople giving back to their community and while you are giving back, be sure to brag just a little bit about your company and the great things you do.