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Business Management

Organic Retailing

Time To Get Dirty!

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"Organic Retailing" — this just sounds wrong! But the concept is catching on in all sorts of shopping venues. Words like local, artisanal, handcrafted, made-to-order, personalized and of course, the overused “organic” are all more popular than ever before. And it’s not just Baby Boomers swinging away from the sterile, cookie-cutter franchised retailers – it’s younger buyers, too.

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the tool bar and restaurant.  notice the vice holding the menu. a full sized ford tractor is hooked up to the whole bar off to the right.  everyone takes phone photos of everything in this store with a bar in the back.  Local businesses seem to be making a comeback as a pushback to the omnipresent mass market retailers. Boring! A previous column of mine referred to the “sea of sameness” out there for the shopping experience – both in the powersports arena and general retail. Since it is all the same out there, why not shop on the impersonal Internet instead?

 

imagine a parts counter from plated steel and corrugated tin.  barn wood floors are pretty “tight” too.  Apply this concept to your powersports store as you read this article. Do you or anyone in your family shop at the weekly farmer’s market? How about boutique apparel stores? Local restaurants or nationally franchised chains? Craft beer halls or Bud Lite-serving sports bars? Big golf courses or funky, fun local ones? See what I mean?  Things are changing and choices are coming.

 

the jon varvatos store gives off a unique feeling of warmth with earth tones and softer textures. it is certainly not the gap or banana republic.  Even the Gen-X and Millenials seem to be shying away from the traditional brick-and-mortar dealership experience in favor of finding an old Honda CB 550 on Craigslist and restoring it. Even Harley-Davidson new unit sales are flat as of the writing of this piece… maybe there is a reason? Perhaps America is burned out on the same old retail formula which worked on the “masses” for the past three decades? Maybe we want to be treated as individuals once again rather than part of the cytoplasmic blob of mindless shoppers. 

 

Roland Sands’ store shows off motorcycles as “art” which other items for sale intermixed with art. It’s not a museum – it’s “shoppertainment.” Have you seen or heard of the new trend in pizza parlors? Make your own! Chipotle’s Mexican-themed menu allowing you to “invest” in your own personalized meal was a home run in the west. Ditto for Slater’s 50/50 Burgers by Design (.com) offering a choice of more than 150 ways to size, cheese or top your own burger… plus there is even the option of a gluten-free bun for wheat-shunners like me. Now that’s customized eating!

 

Nikeid.com and Vans.com have offered personalized shoes online for nearly 10 years. Oakley does it too on their Factory Custom website. How can your dealership become a more fun place to shop, more customer personalized and individual-specific?

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It has been said we are entering the age of “no customers.” To interpret this powerful quote, you need to erase your previous concept of multiple customers (plural). There is only one customer — the one standing in front of you! He is the most important person in your retailing life at that moment because you only have one shot to make him a return customer rather than a runaway customer.

 

If you offer some personalized services which make him feel special about shopping at your store, he will likely return because of his “blown away” first impression. If you are simply toeing the retail line and attempting to keep up with the Jones’ dealership across town, you have lowered yourself to everyone else’s level of shopping. No wonder your floor traffic is down! 

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Call it hip, hot or hilarious, it’s so much more fun to shop when surrounded by something new and unique! It might be a small movement now, but why not be on the leading edge of what’s going mainstream. The pendulum for recreational shopping is swinging away from “big and glitzy” — The trend now is to place retail venues in older, restored buildings with a local story.

 

Retail is being repurposed just like a vintage CB 550 with modern tires, electronic ignition and a comfortable seat. Old movie theaters, citrus packing houses, barns, car dealerships, churches and former fire stations are now getting fun and funky remodels and new facades to bring out their individuality.

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The Ace Cafe in the UK is coming to North America early next year and they have elected to refurbish an old railroad maintenance facility in downtown Orlando. A motorcycle dealership and retail store is also inside a part of the 90-year-old building. It will have modern conveniences, of course, but the “story” of the trains and building will be preserved and promoted alongside motorhead mania, food and music.

 

Organic!  

 

Nobody expects you to move your shop to a historical venue. The question is how can you provide more “story” to the place you have now? The plethora of home remodeling shows on HGTV proves there are thousands of ideas out there you have never thought of for a possible facelift for your store. Perhaps it’s time to go on a field trip and explore some other “organic retailers” to see what else is possible out there… and stop looking inside the Big Box merchants’ boxes. Get dirty!

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