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Facing Your Fear

In the Face of Competition

You have worked for years to grow your business into one of which you can be proud of, while making a very comfortable living. During this time, you have been able to acquire and feature several top lines of swimwear. And, these lines are exclusively yours for a good sized geographical area. You know that you have developed a loyal customer base; so much to the point that when one of your exclusive swimwear lines has a print ad in a national magazine or when a celebrity is shown wearing one of the suits, your phone rings and people come in the door looking to buy.

Then one day, you go to market and have a sales representative tell you about a new store that is going to open in your town or area. While you have heard the name of this store before, you ask questions of the sales representative to learn more about your new competitor. As you continue through the market, you ask more and more people about the competitor. Unfortunately, the things you are hearing about them are not the things you want to hear.

You are told about how they have a tremendous grand opening, that their store is fabulously appointed, and they use all the things you have read about in this magazine as being the best in store design. This will truly be a competitor.

You may even meet another shop owner who will tell you a tremendous "tale of horrors" of how the new dealer has a tremendous reputation; so much a reputation that people will walk into your business and ask how you are going to survive with the new competition in town. They may even be a business that is very Internet savvy.

Is it time to begin shaking in your boots and worrying about what is going to happen to you? Absolutely not!

While no one is going to promise that you are not going to feel the effect of the new competition, we can help you in gaining a level of comfort and working towards your minimizing the challenges for your customers. Let's begin hearing what other experts have said; "Stay confident and focused on your goals."

While you shouldn't worry about the competition, you should know who they are, what they sell, and how they do it. Answering these questions can be as easy as driving to their current location and observe their store. You will probably want to note their store hours, product lines, the ambiance of the store, and how they treat their customers. If they have a mailing list, be sure to have a friend or family member sign onto the list so that you can keep up with their advertising efforts.

Knowing what the competition is doing, as you return to your business, remember something other experts have said, "Concentrate on your business. Have a structured plan for success." Let's take a look at a checklist of how you should make sure you are focused on your goals, and that they are achievable.

Because most every new business makes a splash as they enter a market, you should expect that customers will want to take a look at the new shop. Depending on the competition, this could mean a decreased customer count in your store for as little as a week to as much as a season. Expecting the best but preparing for the worst, make sure you are utilizing a cashflow chart.

If you do not have one, ask your accountant to help you create one. A cashflow chart will look somewhat like a cross between your income statement and your balance sheet with one major difference. The numbers on the chart will be the projections for the next twelve months. It is important for you to be secure in knowing your financial strength so that you can weather the storm - no matter how small or large, short or long.

This one area of concern being covered, Debbie's statement about a structured plan bears additional comment and these three questions for you.

Do you have a mailing list of your customers? This is your most valuable asset within your business. And, knowing brand preferences of your customers will most definitely multiply the value of this information. For an easy way of managing the information, look at using some customer relationship software programs. This technology will allow you to easily track your customers, their purchases, and more importantly keep in touch with your customers. While it will be only natural for your customers to visit the new store, it is a perceived lack of concern by the first store that often causes customers to change their store loyalty. Some POS systems incorporate these tools within their programs.

Are your hours convenient? If your business is dependent on those individuals who work for a living, your being open from 9am to 5pm Monday through Saturday, only allows these customers the eight hours on Saturday to shop with you.

Are you talking to your customers? Many stores perform customer surveys on a regular basis. Perhaps the most important information you could gain is to ask what else, and where else, your customers are buying accessories. This might lead you to consider carrying hats, oversized towels, sunscreen, sunglasses, or beach shoes. These may be items that you are forcing your customer to go elsewhere to purchase.

Answering these questions to you, and your customer's satisfaction should do everything possible, and necessary to minimize the affect of the arrival of a new competitor. An old adage states, "A dog with a full food bowl does not go looking at other dog's food bowls." You are doing the same with your customers; filling all of their needs. And by doing that, as another expert says, "you don't have time to worry about the competition".

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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