Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

How to Prevent Those Avoidable Business Deaths

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

How to Prevent Those Avoidable Business Deaths

Article excerpt

"We agreed that a business of his own was probably the only solution for him because he was obviously unemployable."

- Peter DeVries

Here's an idea: Newspapers should start printing business obituaries every day. Here's how they might look: DIED: Hardware store, age 23. Cause of death: cardiac arrest, following announcement of a Wal-Mart store opening nearby. DIED: Gift shop, age 19 months. Cause of death: taken off financial life-support after a prolonged marketing coma. Such notices might remind us that capitalism is a sport businesses play to the death. And, if we devoted a little more attention to their dying, we might notice that most of the deaths are avoidable and worthy of a prevention campaign, a merchant's version of the American Cancer Society. In this case it should be the American Arrogance Society, or maybe The National Closemindedness Association. These thoughts came to me as I visited with David Wing, who runs a consulting firm in Seattle called Retail Advisors (206-324-2627). Talking with him about the stores he has helped save, I began to understand that most small stores die from the ears down. As Wing says, "A business owner has to listen to what the customers aren't saying" and "The most important person in the store is someone who didn't buy anything." He means that there is crucial information to be gathered from customers who walk by a store or who come in but walk out without making a purchase. Wing gave me the example of a gift shop that came to him as the holiday season was starting. Here's a telling bit of conversation. Wing asked, "How much have you spent on holiday merchandise?" The answer: "Less than $2,000." Hearing this startlingly low amount, Wing asked, "How come so little?" The owner explained: "We had plenty of merchandise left over from last Christmas." In other words, the owner thought that the merchandise nobody wanted to buy last year would somehow sell this year. The solution was to tell the merchant to unload the old goods at cost. …

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