I visited Joe the other day to see how his business was coming along.
Despite other businesses going to the wall, shutting down in this economy, Joe is continuing.
What is his secret?
What makes him able to keep going on during these difficult times for retail owners?
Joe opened his retail business in a prominent Johannesburg shopping centre some 25 years ago.
Subsequently, the centre owners decided to “upgrade” the centre to attract a new younger demographic – all of which resulted in skyrocketing rentals.
Some successful retail owners at the time decided to get out as quick as they could. One successful retailer, for example, traded until his lease expired and then went off to the Mpumalanga Province to farm.
Joe stayed in the centre trading for as long as he could but with a new upgrade, he decided to throw in the towel and moved to a suburb where rentals were lower.
But after a few years even these rentals became too high and today you will find Joe trading in his own house.
He has taken all his shelving and put them in a room at the back of his house where it looks similar to the shop front that he had when trading in the upmarket mall.
Costs of banking have gone up so much that Joe has ditched his card facilities as banks leech more and more costs from customers and is now trading on a cash-only basis.
Another setback for Joe was last year’s postal service fiasco. Unfortunately, he lost valuable customers who did not receive their products in the mail. Joe tried to make the best he could for his customers but some of them refuse to accept postal deliveries anymore.
So what enables Joe to continue trading in these times where even in the best of retail space stores are closing down. It’s merciless.
One month you see a store that has been in a centre for 10 years and a month later it’s gone – everything. The shop boarded up and a hollow promise by the centre owner with signage that says wait for this special new retailer coming soon (but in these times the same signage stays on the walls waiting another year until someone is brave enough to open a retail store).
These type of retail outfits don’t have what Joe has. They don’t have a special connection with their customers. They don’t collect their contact details and store them.
It’s funny isn’t it how a young squirrel in its first year has an instinct to start storing food for the winter. Mind you, this squirrel has never even experienced a winter. But humans are different. Somehow their brains don’t react even if they are given advice, warnings or if people plead with them to do the right thing.
Joe, in his wisdom, collected all the names of these customers during all those years that he traded in shopping centres.
Now, he is the only retail business left in the niche category that started 25 years ago. All other similar businesses as his have gone – gone to the wall, gone forever.
Joe has done it by building and maintaining an up-to-date customer list. He has the contact details of all his customers and can contact them whenever he has specials – all from his home.