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Guest Blog Part I- Thea Euryphaessa

January 25, 2011
Local Independent Business - we love!

Local Independent Business - we love!

Aside from being a food, drink and, travel writer, I’m a life coach and scholar of archetypal psychology. My interest in archetypal psychology doesn’t limit my study of the soul to people, but to buildings, places, objects, and even cities. So, when I review a bar for example, before I step through the door, I’m reading the premises from a psychological perspective.

Like people, businesses ‘talk.’ They have a certain ‘body language,’ as it were. Too long to go into here, but some businesses, for example, feel sorry for themselves, while others hide away. Problem is, they don’t realise they’re giving out these signals. And so, people, potential customers walk by, unconsciously reacting to the signals their business is giving off. (By the way, archetypal psychology goes much further than consumerology techniques.)

Add to this my partner is a store manager for a behemothic supermarket chain (no prizes for guessing which one) and, between us, we make quite the team when it comes to analysing businesses/individuals. Regardless of my opinion of his employer, I know from having inside information (and having worked for them, many moons ago) what helps make them so successful. Love them or loathe them, they’re damn good at what they do. As is my partner.

A couple of nights ago, I popped by my corner shop for a couple of bits. I asked the owner how business was.

“Tough,” he said, “particularly since Sainsbury’s opened.”

His shop looked well stocked, bright, inviting. I told my fella when I got home, asked him what he thought.

“Thing is,” he said, “he’s a classic example of someone who isn’t willing to move with the times, adapt to his customer’s needs. He still only opens half day and closes at 9pm prompt. He doesn’t sell newspapers, either. If people buy a paper, they’re likely to pick up something else — bottle of milk, loaf of bread. And he’s the only corner shop for quite a few streets. So although he complains business is tough, he wants business on his terms, rather than on his customer’s. Doesn’t work like that. Not today. Not in this climate.”

Regardless of my partner working for a supermarket, we support our local shops. We have a master butcher around the corner, wouldn’t dream of buying our meat from anywhere else.

“Ah,” he went on, “but there’s an example of an independent that gets it bang on. The shop always looks fantastic, is well stocked and spotless clean. The cut and quality of their meat is top-drawer. Their customer service is second-to-none, always ensuring they learn their customer’s names. There’s a buzz about the place. They maximise use of their forecourt with an old-fashioned fruit and veg stall stacked high with a great looking produce display adorned with coloured light-bulbs that catches your eye as you drive past. In short, it oozes quality. They’re a classic example of a destination independent. Doesn’t matter that they stand alone, that there are no other shops or businesses nearby to collectively draw in business, they make a song and dance of themselves. As a result, so does their highly loyal client base. People drive from miles around.”

And they do.

Other businesses, however, think a pretty shop front will be enough to draw the crowds — that a catchy name and funky interior is all that’s required. Then, they can just sit back, await the stampede. Big mistake. Lots of  businesses seem to be  guilty of this. Business by Proxy, I call it. Businesses who think that simply opening a shop in a salubrious, well-established area will be enough to cut it.

I visited a business in one of these areas, recently. I loved what I’d heard about it, the concept. On stepping through the door, however, I was disappointed. Despite its quirky, cute exterior (and interior), the place looked empty. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s feeling like I’m the one on display and under the spotlight when I walk in a shop. My stomach sank. I expected a veritable cornucopia, a business stacked to the rafters with delights. Instead, I was greeted with a half-baked, half-full shop. Lovely design, but from a business perspective, not thought through. And even if they are doing well, I guarantee they could do 100% better.

So, what can you do to get more customers through the door regardless of whether you’re just starting out or successful and well established? I’ll share some constructive, proactive strategies in Part II.

Thea Euryphaessa

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. diana permalink
    January 25, 2011 3:10 pm

    I think this post is fascinating, especially the point about business owners expecting customers on their terms and not adapting to customer needs. I think this is (sorry) a very English trait and I’ll give you an example from my neighborhood — there are 2 speciality food shops on my walk home from the station that close at 6pm. And yet there are 2 local trains at 6:05 and 6:25, with a wealth of customers walking RIGHT by, on their way home to fix dinner. It frustrates me that they don’ t stay open — I would stop! But instead I’m forced to go to [insert chain store] because it’s the only one open. It’s the same on the weekends — our local [chain store] is literally packed out on late Saturday/Sundays, because none of the independent ones will stay open. Very frustrating!

  2. January 25, 2011 3:25 pm

    Great piece, Thea. The life of an independent business is fraught with risks and rammed with challenges; if you’re going to do it successfully, you’ve got to do it wholeheartedly. Service (and business) with a smile should then come naturally 🙂

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