Retail consultant: Respond to trends

By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Retailers should respond to consumers trends while paying attention to traditional issues in the ever-changing marketplace, advised author and consultant Margie Johnson.
A former business owner, Johnson likes to think of herself as more of a coach than a consultant, and she has been working with businesses since 1985.
Retailers have struggled to respond to economic challenges as well as increased competition from online sales in recent years.
Johnson said owners have to step back and do a thorough self-assessment in order to make positive changes and adapt in a new environment. The assessment covers a range of issues, from social media activity to paint color of the store. She suggested finding frequent customers to help provide feedback to improve.
“A new breed of consumer is emerging and they’re changing the very foundation of business,” she said. The economy is not necessarily the biggest challenge to retailers today, she said. Instead, the biggest competitor to retailers is time – or a lack of time for shoppers.
Johnson said when she started out in the retail business, she, like a lot of entrepreneurs, had “no clue and no money.” But after years in business, Johnson offered a broad view of an industry she said employs one of every four American workers.
Virginia Chambers owns His Hers Antiques and Collectibles in Tupelo. She said she was interested in learning about what is trending and what younger generations of consumers are responding to.
“They are more attuned to social media concepts,” she said.
Chambers said she wants to better understand the market to make better decisions on where limited advertising dollars are best spent. Her business is currently active on Yelp, Urban Spoon, FourSquare, Facebook and eBay, and is beginning to explore Pinterest.
Johnson visited His Hers on Monday to give the business tailored advice. Johnson spends time researching a business and talking with the owner and manager before a visit. Johnson addresses two to three concerns sent to her in advance by the merchant and also addresses two to three things she observes in her research and on site.
Johnson said she evaluates the overall quality of a business, not just one aspect. She said one of the biggest mistakes business owners make is to become complacent. She encourages business owners to “get outside and engage outside their four walls.”
Johnson is scheduled to give her presentation on “Trends Reshaping Small Businesses” in Water Valley today and Grenada on Wednesday. The seminar is free and open to local merchants and chamber members.

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