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Trends in Customers Moving

Who and Where are They Now?

When my great-grandfather first joined the retail job force in 1920, he managed for a man, a business which was located some 18 blocks north of the downtown main street. After a few years, he left the business and opened his own across the street. One of the reasons, I was told, was the man's refusal to add certain products and services to the business.

Great-grandfather's business, a combination filling station, grocery store, and general store, was then the only business on the street which offered gas and oil. The street happened to be the road which was the connection to the next town to the north. Within 15 years, there occurred some changes which required great grandfather to reconsider the emphasis of the business; the local electric company decided to offer trolley service from the downtown to the small amusement park which was located near the border of these two towns.

The problem that occurred was that the road next to the trolley line became the new major road between the two towns. The family business was seeing a sudden shift in customers; gone were the travelers. And, if the business were to continue, it would need a new emphasis.

The business, which was operated by my grandfather until the mid 1980's became a place where the local factory workers came to purchase their groceries, appliances, domestics, and clothing. The auto service became a thing of the past.

Talking to dealers today, we often ask about their business. We find their businesses to have a beginning much like our family business. The product selection, location, or ideal customer base was selected on conditions which existed sometime in the past.

The concern we have for retailers is often raised when we hear statements such as, "Yeah, our customers used to ..." or "We opened our store here when the factory workers were ...." Other comments which apply to the same vein are, "We used to sell a lot of these before ...." All of these show a retailer who knows the history of his business, but too often these are businesses which have not changed to tap into the current market.

What are the things we most often see happening? Stores which were located on what was once a major road, but has now been bypassed by highway construction. There are also stores which are located on what was once a route to the favorite fishing or hunting locations, but are now subdivisions.

Another common occurrence is businesses which are located in areas which have seen tremendous change in the makeup of the surrounding neighborhood; whether it be economics, age, racial mix, or any other identifiable change in who the customers have been and who they are now.

Do these changes need to be addressed? In just about every case, the answer is a solid yes. A business may need to find ways to bring the old customers back to the store, or a store may need to find ways to appeal to the customer who now are the most likely candidates to shop in the business.

If there is too much distance or a physical barrier, such as an interstate highway separating the store from the customers, one consideration would surely be to move the store to where the customers now reside. If there are not these barriers, the store may need to redesign their advertising and promotional efforts to draw the customers back.

For some businesses, these ideas will not work so one of the possibilities is to re-examine the product mix so as to appeal to the customer base. Perhaps you are located in a market where more of the potential customers would be novices, so you need more entry level products to attract customers.

If the community has become more urban, perhaps an emphasis on target shooting and the idea of shooting being a family sport may be appropriate.

Again, if the area has shifted from rural to urban, it may include your examination of your hours as an urban area is more likely to have consumers who are shopping in the evening or on weekends.

In the case of a community having more of a change in the mix of the residents, it may require your effort to have employees who are bilingual or trilingual. This type of change would also be reason for your reviewing the types of media you are using to reach your customers.

Sometimes, these changes are very obvious. To hone in on the changes, you may be able to determine them by simply looking at other types of retail to see who they are targeting. If you are needing some statistical information, one of the best places to gather this information is to befriend the manager of a new chain store or the owner of a new franchise in your trade area. These types of businesses have most frequently done substantial demographic studies before opening the business.

While the demographic study may have initially cost thousands of dollars, a chance for you to copy or at least look at the reports can cost you little if anything. Demographic studies often will tell you what types of work the residents in your area do. It will also give you some guidelines as to how much they earn, how many children they have, how far they drive to work, and how long they have lived in the neighborhood.

Everything we have said to this point in this article has been to get you to ask yourself these questions and examine the area around your business. Perhaps the only thing we can say with a high percentage chance of being right is that if your business has been in the same location for more than five years, you are a likely candidate to reread this article to perform this quick study of the market.

Who and where are they now? This is not just the title of this article. It is the first question in a series that every business needs to be asking themselves. And with the answers you find, you should be making sure that your business continues to be the place for answers for the questions customers are asking. After all, we want to see you still reading SHOT Business five years from now.

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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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