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The Death of Retail? Episode 57

Bringing Rural Back Podcast

Just last week JC Penny announced that it would be closing stores and offering early retirement for F6000 employees, Macy’s announced they would be closing some of their stores, Family Christian Stores are closing all of their locations. Sounds rough right, well that is only the beginning. Sears/Kmart close a few more stores every single year and Lowe’s is laying off full-time employees in an attempt to “restructure” their staffing model.

After all of these announcements I saw a blog article entitled “Retail Apocalypse”. Now I will be honest I didn’t read it, the title alone was enough for me to just smile and move along. But there is a question out there that is worth answering. Are we seeing the death of retail? Sadly this is not a new question. Just a quick internet search renders lots of people proclaiming the death of retail. I’m not just talking about fringe blogs here either. Forbes in 2014 posted an article entitled “The Death of Retail–And Perhaps a Resurrection”, The very next year Forbes had an article entitled “Don’t Buy the Death of Retail Story” So the same publication contradicted itself in the period of a little over a year. Which is true?

The Changing Consumer

There are really two primary types of shoppers. Those shopper types are the things that determine their method about a purchasing decision. There is the efficient shopper and the experience shopper.

The Efficient Shopper

The efficient shopper really is all that worried about the atmosphere. As long as it is safe and clean that is really all that is required. The efficient shopper does all of their research ahead of time, limits their options to only a couple and then wants to go somewhere that they will be able to compare their product finalists. For these people shopping is a chore not an adventure. Shopping really is about getting the things they need or want in a timely manner. These people hate having to spend hours out shopping. They are more of a get in, get it, and get out personality.

The efficient shopper is the least important to the retail corporations. They are typically the ones who spend just enough money to get the items they want. I am pretty solidly in this group as is my wife.

The Experience Shopper

The experience shopper is the one retailers love. The search and discovery of an item is part of the joy of shopping. These are the people that will dedicate an entire day to getting a new outfit. For these people it is relaxing and even rewarding to spend hours looking for this or that. I have known people that spent time each week for over a month looking for a pair of shoes. There is an emotional component to their search. If they don’t have an emotional reaction to the item, they won’t buy it.

The experience shopper is the group for which malls and shopping centers were created. They are also the ones that sales were created for. If they want a new pair of shoes, but are unwilling to spend $100 for the ones they want, a simple sign of 15% of can be enough to sway them.The emotional part of them is convinced they got a bargain. This is true even if the price went up a week before the sale and they really didn’t save very much at all. All that matters is they think they have saved money.

Division of Shoppers Within Each Type

I am going to further talk about shopping habits here and how they have an impact on the retail market. The following list of sub types of consumers that you will find in both the efficient shopper and the experience shopper.

Price Only Shopper

The price only shopper is one of the biggest problems for the retail market. If they were to look at 2 products that have the same function, say on is $3 and one is $10. The less expensive one is made of cheaper material and will honestly last about 3 years. The one that is $10 is made of much more durable materials and is likely to last say 15 years. The price only shopper will automatically go to the $3 item. Very little consideration is given to quality or longevity of the product.

The Value Shopper

This is the area that I try to be in most of the time, but I will admit that I bounce back and forward between price only and value. The value shopper is one who is willing to pay more for quality. The quality must be consistent with the increase in price. It must meat the ratio of product life expectancy to price. It must be a superior value. For example if a $5 item will last one year and a $10 item 2 years eccetera there is really not enough motivation to purchase the higher priced item because the value is the same.

T-shirts are an excellent example for this. I can go to the local big department store and purchase a t-shirt for $5. It is made of very thin material, it may have a cool design on it, but for regular use its life expectancy is at most one year. However I have t-shirts that I spent $12 dollars for has lasted me over 10 years. That is value.

The Prestige Shopper

These are the people that are logo/name brand focused. They have to have this designer or that. Some of these people even get part of their identity from the brands they buy. These are the people that are catered to by the upper end retailers and are honestly the primary target of the sales. Each group can benefit from a sale, but the prestige shopper is the primary target. These people are proud of spending large amounts of money on items because they have a designers name.

Both Types of Shoppers are Changing

With increased access and familiarity to online shopping has come a major shift of behavior for all of the customer types and sub-types listed above. The more online shopping improves the more pressure that will be placed on brick and mortar retail sellers. Online retail will continue to grow.

Convenience

There is something just really cool about being able to shop in your pjs anytime you want. No need to get up, or dressed or anything. When you add the benefits to online programs like Amazon Prime, which provided free 2 day delivery for most items, it is difficult to argue against online shopping. We personally love Amazon Prime.

Selection

The average brick and mortar retail location can have between 50,000 and 125,000 items on site. The same retailer may have in excess of 3 million items available online. Rather that driving all over the place and looking for “the item” sometimes even visiting the same store just different locations. You can fine whatever you want online with a few clicks of your mouse.
Price

In general online shopping is going to be less expensive. The reason is quite simple, OVERHEAD.

The companies that are exclusively online are always open, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They don’t have the expense of location scattered across the countryside. They don’t need as many employees. Utilities costs, insurance costs, labor costs, really all of the costs of operating a business are much lower. These lower costs are what make lower prices available online.

How Does This Effect Us

Obviously if we work in retail our jobs are less secure that at any time in history. If not, we will be being pushed to online purchases. All online purchases are traceable so there will be greater data available about our purchasing habits.

There is no doubt that retail is changing, and companies that can change with the trend will do well. I do believe that we will see lots more store closures, but at the end of the day retail will not go away but it may change forms.

Bringing Rural Back

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I’m Back Episode 56

Bringing Rural Back Podcast

Bringing Rural Back Podcast

I really hate that I am having to do an I’m back post. In fact I started not to do one at all. But as I look around I realize a lot of people are or have gone through the same things we have. So I decided I would share what we went though. I hope you get something out of this.

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The last time I posted an episode was last April. At the time I was working nights and still trying to produce content. My heart was in the right place but I couldn’t stay consistent. I was making okay money, but my energy level for almost everything else was in the tank.

The Friday before Independence Day I was called into the office after my shift was over and basically told they no longer needed my services and I was being let go. Calling my wife that morning and telling her that I no longer had a job was very difficult.

If you haven’t heard me say this before let me state here emphatically that my wife a awesome. She was incredibly supportive and never even appeared to doubt that I would land on my feet. With her encouragement, I looked at this time as an opportunity and that is important.

What I learned

Something that I had always heard, but really didn’t believe was that the older you get the more difficult it is to fine employment. When I was dismissed from the company for which I had worked for over 5 years, I hit the ground running. I didn’t sit around for a single day without looking for opportunities, submitting resumes, filling out applications. Since I had this sudden freedom I started shooting for the really good jobs that I really wanted. I was qualified, for everything that I applied, but I shot for the moon.

After a couple of weeks with no employment, a buddy of mine asked if I had thought about getting into insurance. I had not, not at all. I have had some bad experiences with insurance agents and just couldn’t imagine trying to sell things to people they didn’t want. He told me that stigma was really on the life insurance market, he was talking about property insurance. This is the area for automotive and home insurance, but he told me if I really wanted opportunities to open up to study and take the test for Property and Casualty. This covers business insurance, worker’s compensation, automotive both private and commercial, as well as several other areas.

I did a little research and decided that maybe, just maybe I could take my outlook on the world and be one of the “good” insurance agents. I signed up for a self study course and passed the course. I scheduled and paid for the state exam and passed it as well. I learned more about the insurance industry than I really ever cared to know, but it was worth wild.

One thing that I learned was that a lot of people, especially in the poorer areas will let their insurance lapse during November and December so they can spend that money on the holidays. That means that the holidays are the time of year that many insurance agents make the least money. When you take that in addition to most insurance agents are paid on a commission based salary, my wife was not happy. There is the opportunity to make incredible money, but there is also the opportunity to make very little.

I want to state something right here. Security is an illusion. I know that, my wife knows that, we have talked about it a good bit, but she believes that somethings are more secure than others. This isn’t a lack of faith in me, this is a lack of faith in an industry. After I passed the state exam I talked with a few agents about working with them and they all wanted to wait till after the new year for the reasons mentioned above. We needed me to have employment before that.

Another friend asked if I was still looking for a job and said that there was a department in the company that he worked for that needed help pretty bad. He did warn me that is was a hard job, he was right. But I took it and before long moved into a job that was much better on me physically.

So we made it through without too much difficulty. Why were we able to do that? Were we just lucky? Do we live in an area that is more economically vigorous that other places? Or is there some secret ingredient?  I would be foolish if I said the local economy didn’t have some impact, but I believe the “secret ingredient is how we dealt with the challenges we faced.

Tools For Dealing With Adversity

Attitude

You have probably heard the saying that Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude. This is true to a major extent. When some challenge arises, our reaction sets the tempo for our recovery. Some people sit down and cry, others protest or picket, others just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start off again. You can see all of these responses around you everyday.

Too many people want to say that everything that happens to them is someone else’s fault. Something may be, but honestly who cares who is to blame for set backs. No one should expect someone else to rescue them. We are all responsible for our own successes and failures. Personal power is our own.

Inventory

There are some people that have a great attitude while going through difficulties that eventually give up because they really don’t know what their assets are. What is the person good at? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? Where are areas they can improve?

Like I said earlier, I saw the sudden job loss as an opportunity. I looked at my education, experience, interpersonal and physical skills, and I decided that it would be a good idea to enhance my education in the area of insurance.  Without an honest inventory of yourself you really don’t know where you could use improvement. We should always want to improve so we should always know the areas that need the most improvement.

Outlook

You might think that attitude and outlook are the same thing. They are not. They can be related, but they are not the same. Attitude is the way you respond, think, and to some extent feel about what is going on right now. Outlook is the way you see, think, and plan for/about the future. This is where the word vision can come into play. This is as much a plan as anything. Lewis Carroll in Alice In Wonderland had a line that was said the the Cheshire cat. “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. This is so true and this is directly related to outlook.

Determination

Determination could be as the grease that keeps a person moving. Without determination a person could simply be going through the motions without any real passion or drive. It is the force that helps a person get up and keep going even when they don’t feel like it. Without determination all of the other assets are worth much less. Could you imagine only trying when you feel like it? It wouldn’t take long before a person like that never feels like it.

Know You Limitations

This is the one that is most difficult for me. I have always thought I could power through anything. But honestly there are some things I just cannot physically do. This is an evaluation of each of the items in your personal inventory. Sometimes you must change your goals, your process, and yes sometimes you even have to change your direction.

Never Give Up

We as a society have made it too easy to just give up. The unemployment numbers that are reported every single week do not include the people who have stopped actively seeking employment. They have given up and are no longer even counted.

Be willing to start over as many times as necessary. Always evaluate and re-evaluate all of the things I mentioned above. Be constantly improving yourself in some way. But Never Ever give up.

Bringing Rural Back

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