Stop Competing with Us
By Jim Crooks
As independent specialty stores, we’ve survived the catalogs, malls and mega malls, outlet malls, big box stores, and now the internet. We started investing and selling on line 12 years ago along side our brick and mortar store that was founded in 1905 by my great uncle.
Our online volume peaked in 2008 and has been stagnant since. To get back in a growth mode, I’ve tried everything: investing in search engine optimization, attending the internet conferences, paying $500 a month for blog writing, all to no avail.
And then it hit me, after talking to my customers and experiencing some negative experiences in the store: vendors are selling direct online with their own sites at an amazing pace. Customers were coming in the store to find their style, size and items they wanted, then going directly to the vendor’s website to order the items online.
What to do?
I’m a very “small fish” in this world of retailing. Can specialty stores join together and do business with companies that want to partner with us? Can we make our plight known to those vendors that are selling direct, making them aware of how it’s hurting the specialty store business?
Yes we can. I have decided to try to get new vendors—and there are plenty—to commit to me that the will not sell direct through the web. They ask me to sign agreements; why can’t I ask them for this commitment? New vendors could use this as a great selling tool—to us—promising that they will not sell direct. They can still have their websites—giving product information and then directing consumers to us.
I have made stickers—to put on badges at the shows—stating “STOP COMPETING WITH US!” I’m bringing 2000 of these stickers with me to Vegas—hopefully I can pass them out to get the vendors and retailers talking.
Perhaps this will change nothing—but I’m not going down without a fight. I will still have those loyal customers who want my input in their purchasing decisions. The question is: will I have enough of them?
Owner of FL CROOKS & CO