ALA Conference speaker and noted retail author Pam Danziger of Unity Marketing believes the time is right for independent retailers to be victorious in the bid for consumer dollars.

Following her opening day keynote detailing trends among Millennial homebuyers, renowned market researcher Pam Danziger will lead an educational session on How to Make Your Lighting Shop POP!

Danziger has great news for independent lighting retailers. “If your store survived the Great Recession, or even if you have opened a store since, you are in the sweet spot of the consumer retail economy for at least the next decade,” she shares.

Movements such as “Shop Local” are bringing customers back to Main Street, but it won’t be just like old times. “For the last 100 years, buying and shopping were basically an integrated activity,” Danziger notes. People came into a store to browse, found something they liked, purchased it, and took it home. Today, shopping and buying are isolated acts. Consumers are browsing online before they come into a retail store to see the product in person — and that’s no guarantee that they will purchase it on the spot.

One of the emerging retail trends Danziger suggests is the notion of creating a shopping experience unlike any that can be found at a nearby mall or online. She explains that demographic shifts, “with both aging Baby Boomers and young Millennials looking for a more personal shopping experience, will drive customers to seek out services and products that only local, small businesses can provide.”

This is not a time to kick back and wait for hordes of consumers to magically appear at your storefront, however. “Retailers need to recognize that they have to provide a shopping experience to bring shoppers in,” Danziger remarks. “They have to put a personal touch to the shopping experience they offer and make an emotional connection with the customer. That’s the only way to compete with online shopping.”

You might have heard that people come into a store to touch and feel the product; Danziger says it’s the emotion-based, “person-to-person connection” that matters. “If you are treated well [by associates in a store], you’ll be much less likely to shop around to find the product cheaper online.”

One area where independent retailers often fall short is their web sites. “Pay attention to your web site and the ‘story’ it tells customers to entice them into your store,” Danziger advises. “What I see out there are many smaller retailers thinking, ‘I don’t need to sell online’ and they have web sites that were designed five years ago and look like antiques in the internet world. You need to update your web site to look trendy, fresh, and approachable; consumers will look online at your business before they venture out. Your web site is your front window display on the internet.”

If your store survived the Great Recession, or even if you have opened a store since, you are in the sweet spot of the consumer retail economy for at least the next decade.” — Pam Danziger

Danziger’s recent research project as a mystery shopper among high-end home furnishings stores was eye-opening. “The interaction was downright terrible,” she states. “I had to drag people from behind the counter to interact with me. I had salespeople tell me to go look [at products] online! It was mindboggling; they might as well have closed their doors.”

That experience reinforces Danziger’s advice that how customers are greeted and interacted with is “vital.” The amount of time that people spend in your store directly correlates to sales. “More time in your store means more money that is [potentially] being spent,” she shares. The more interaction that customers have, whether touching products or talking with salespeople, the better for engendering customer loyalty. “You have to be top of mind with people if you’re ever going to get their dollars,” she notes.

Danziger observed another critical change that home furnishings retailers need to make in order to grow their business. “There is way too much product on display. Shine a spotlight on [your] best selections,” she advises. “All the research proves, without a doubt, that too many items on display confuses and overwhelms the customer. Get rid of marginal lines that are gathering dusk,” she states. “Mark them down and move them out. Merchandise the best of the best and showcase your points of difference [versus] the competition.”

Instead of crowded product displays, Danziger suggests curated collections. “Constantly change your displays; people notice changes in their environment,” she comments. Shifting things around and drawing attention to new displays, or implementing new ways of showing products, can make “a huge difference” in your business. “This is really hard to do, but it’s necessary,” she affirms.
Danziger believes lighting is uniquely poised to be successful. “Cocooning has become even more important to consumers, and lighting is so important for creating the emotional environment of the home. The more you can enhance the emotions, the better,” she notes. Showrooms that effectively demonstrate the capability and influence that lighting can have on a room will have an advantage.
For more ideas from Danziger, check out her book Shops That POP! 7 Steps to Extraordinary Retail Success available from most booksellers.