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Competition is NOT a Dirty Word!

21 March 2010

Competition is HEALTHY!  It makes for better retail businesses and ensures that customers get a good variety of products and prices.

In my experience with retailers around the world, Australian retailers are bordering on paranoid about competition.  Some faces changes when the competition is mentioned, they speak in hushed tones and they are continuously looking over their shoulder.  Surely this energy can be put to better use!?

In reality, anywhere a customer spends their money is competition to your store.  The Water Board, the newsagent, the supermarket, the parking station, the phone company, itunes, school and the list goes on!  The focus should be on your business and how to attract and keep your customers, not what is happening next door. 

If you are doing all the right things and you are copied, then take this as a sign that you are doing a lot of things right.  You will need to continually change and evolve to keep ahead of the game.  If you are a person who copies similar stores in all aspects, you need to realise that you will always be behind the game and you need to learn the skills of a great retailer or get out of the game!

As controversial as this sounds, it is realistic.  Retail is changing faster than ever, we communicate with our customers directly and they give their feedback immediately.  They comment about shopping experiences, good and bad and it doesn’t take long before they pick the fakes.

I would like to challenge you to look at Competition from another perspective.  Think of other stores who sell similar ranges to you as a reminder to your customers of your point of difference.  That you are a better retailer, of the way you treat them, the products you sell and the way they feel good after they have been in your store.

I want to give you some interesting example of what I am talking about:

  1. We were exhibiting at a trade show when a retailer came to our stand with a ‘shopping list’, a list of products that a leading specialist retailer they were ‘emulating’ (yes my way of saying copying nicely!).  They were literally walking the show, ordering EXACTLY what the leading retailer stocked!  This customer ultimately did not have a successful business as they failed to understand that a store is more than the products they stock!  They did not understand the business of retail or customer service and the key elements of success and it showed.
    The interesting thing I find in these cases (and I have seen many in my years as a wholesaler / retailer), that if a retailer, who knows their craft, picks up on the concept or idea that does not work for the ‘emulator’ (ie copier) they can make it a success as they understand the ingredients to make a great retail business.
  2. Sharing information and meeting people in your area of specialty is a great collaborative thing.  Years ago, I brought my retailer customers together to meet and chat over dinner.  I was told I was making a huge mistake, however, in my mind how can communication and sharing information and experiences be a bad thing?  I am pleased to say I was right, great night and they still speak to each other to this day.
  3. I had a supplier from overseas come over for a trade fair who wanted to meet other wholesalers in the same product area.  Wow, what a concept.  I must admit I felt a little odd doing it and thought they would think I was ‘spying’ but the experience was wonderful!  To this day, I know and speak to them all.

This said, you need to be aware of what is going on around your business.  You certainly need to know what all stores around you are doing not just the ones that have a similar product group.  Be a student of retail, study what others are doing on and offline.  Read about success stories and apply the tools to success.  Head the warning of the stories that don’t have a wonderful ending.

At the end of the day, independent retailers will benefit from everyone being the best business they can be.  Instead of being threatened, think of all retailers as your union members.  You need to join together and create wonderful retail businesses with exceptional customer service so that independent retail thrives over large chain store retailers and huge shopping centres.

Embrace the competition, see it for what it is, a healthy environment that constantly challenges you to run the best retail business you can! Have fun!

Nancy Georges is a retail marketing strategist working with retailers to create a more profitable business.  She can be contacted at Magnolia Solutions (02) 9773 8874 or info@magnoliasolutions.com.au

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. unknowntheartist permalink
    21 March 2010 4:55 pm

    Thankyou for pointing this out! I totally agree with you, competition and “emulation” is definitely seen as backstabbing in the Australian retail industry and I, for one, cannot understand why- it’s not as if a lot of our retail stores (and everything in them) are completely and utterly, a single entity’s idea.
    I find myself, on lunch breaks, or after work, checking out displays in other stores, taking note of the customer service and care given in store. It’s not to cheat and copy their displays or whatnot but to educate myself as to why a customer will go to them.
    I see my fellow retailers in my store everyday as well so we must doing something right :)

    • 21 March 2010 5:03 pm

      Thank you to for being a great retailer who GETS IT!!
      You are confident that you are doing the right thing and not paranoid about being looked at! Bravo!!
      Here’s to better retail habbits!! :-)

  2. 21 March 2010 5:59 pm

    Excellent, Nancy.

    Competition is great for business.

    Iron sharpens iron.

    Having a mindset of cooperative-competition or ‘co-opetition’ treats the market as a whole and asks ‘how can we work together to grow the market so that we all get a bigger piece of the larger pie?’

    Love your work.

    Good selling, Robin

    • 21 March 2010 10:00 pm

      thanks Robin, you are so right! I am constantly frustrated by retailers who just won’t even open their minds to seeing competition – or co-opetition as you aptly called it – in this way!
      Love your work too!!
      cheers Nancy

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