Ever since I was little I have loved to shop. In fact I’m pretty sure that one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed my time working in retail was because every time I went to put a bolt of fabric away, I would remember the feel of fabric slipping through my outstretched fingers as I walked through the aisles of the store with my mother. To me, shopping is not always done out of necessity, it can also be an experience. And for a long time, I had no reason to think that I was abnormal in my slight retail addiction. Over the past several years, however, I’ve begun to feel like a cliché straight out of “Confessions of a shopaholic”. With the growing popularity of online retailers and predictions that some of the chain stores are traveling the road to obsolescence, it’s no wonder people look at me like I may have suffered a head injury when I tell them that I had a great Saturday out shopping.
Still, I refuse to believe that brick and mortar retail is really going out of style. However, like any trend or style, it is changing. This recent article on the future of retail struck a chord with me and I hope you’ll take a few moments to read it as well. It’s a great overall look at a key component that’s making the difference for many retailers today. Emotion. And it’s true. I can’t remember the last time I was in a Best Buy store that I would actually say was crowded, but the Apple store in the mall is always filled to capacity. They made retail fun again and made their stores into a destination. Now of course a pharmacy is a different animal than your average Apple or Windows store, but there are still lessons we can learn from the example they and other forward thinking retailers have set. Here are some key points that I think every pharmacy can take away from this article and build on to help your store become a new kind of retail environment.
Happy staff equals happy customers- Mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. When I read about this subject recently in a book, I had immediate childhood flashbacks to annoying my older brother by copying everything he did. But it turns out that this saying actually rings true, although in a much broader sense. People naturally change their own demeanor’s and inflections to match that of the person they are talking to. It’s harder to be negative when the person you are talking to has a contagiously positive outlook and demeanor. On the flipside, it’s also easy to irritate someone when that bright side of life outlook is faked, forced or feels like a canned response. The best way to avoid this is to be passionate about what you do and give your staff the knowledge and training to share that passion. If you don’t have a mission statement, create one. Help your staff feel a sense of purpose that overrides every day monotony.
Be Unique- Here’s the best part about this. As an independent business, you already are unique. Play up that strength. Outstanding service, exclusive product lines, a fresh store layout, a loyalty program that actually makes customers want to be loyal or the soda fountain in the store that has the best ice cream in town. Any one of these things is a quality that sets you apart from the competition and many of independent pharmacies share more than one, or even all of these attributes. Don’t be afraid to take on the big box stores and market according to your assets.
Always be innovating- It’s easy to get caught in the mire of day to day business. Today’s market is tough and sometimes it takes everything we’ve got just to get through the day. With that said, if you remain stagnant, you’ll be repeating that same day over and over again with no end in sight. Take a few minutes every day to think about what you or your staff did that was exceptional. This will help to remind your staff that what they do every day is important and valued. But also a few minutes to try and recognize where you or your team may have fallen short. Learn from the mistakes. Ask your employees what might make their jobs easier and help them to be more efficient or confident. At RMS, we do this every day in a quick 5 minute “stand-up” meeting. We share triumphs and failures and ideas and this is part of what helps us to always be improving and innovating.
Of course change doesn’t come with the flip of a switch or after a day of thinking hard on where you want your business to be. But having goals, sharing your passion and finding ways to adapt to an always evolving retail landscape will help you to remain competitive and grow your business.