with the competition requires
knowing the competition
C. Scott did a superb job of playing General George Patton in the
movie "Patton." There is a scene in which Patton is standing
on a bluff looking down at the remains of a sizable portion of a regiment
led by Rommel, the German military expert. According to the movie,
this is the Rommel's first defeat. Patton stands on the bluff and
with a large grin states, "Rommel, you son of a gun, I read your book!"
had written a book in 1937 on how to lead an infantry with certain
tactics. It was the book that impressed Hitler and prompted him to enlist Rommel. It was the same book that Patton read as he
devised his strategy for defeating Rommel.
a small business can be a lot like this movie. You can be like Rommel
and have everything going your way; that is, until the competition
comes into town and, after seeing what you are doing, creates a strategy
that takes away a sizable portion of your business. Your business
can also be a lot like Patton. You are the smart merchant who sees
what the competition does and then finds a way to get more from the
scenario, the advantage goes to the one who knows what the competition
is doing. As busy as you are with everything there is to running the
store, why would you want to distract yourself with the competition?
what your competition is doing, you can learn several things. If the
competition is a chain store, it undoubtedly utilizes plan-o-grams
provided by its vendors and home office. While the competition is
not going to give the plan-o-grams to you, by walking through its
store, you can see how the presentation of each item is maximized.
You can also see the brands being stocked so that you can decide if
you now want to switch to a non-competing brand.
is also a great opportunity to see what the competition is charging
on the most popular items - the products whose prices your customers
are most likely to know. This is an opportunity to do something about
the situation where customers tell you they like to shop in a locally
owned business, even if it means paying a few dollars more for the
same item than at the chain store.
for many of you, the retail scene has been fairly constant for the
past couple of years. Do you remember when the local grocery store
decided to increase its selection of the same products you sell? How
about when the nearby chain store drug store started stocking these
items? Perhaps even the corner convenience stores are stocking items
that you sell.
these stores don't sell a lot of product? What if you were to add
their dollar volume to your store? From this writer's experience as
a retailer, any dollar that is spent in another store is a dollar
that is not going in your register, and I have never met a retailer
who wanted to see dollars go to any competitor.
the grocery store and convenience store, there was the mass merchant.
All of these businesses are wooing people to spend their dollars with
them rather than with you. This is your competition.
else do you want to know about your competition? What are their hours?
Do they attract more women than men? How is their sales floor designed?
What are they putting on their end caps? How is their point-of-sale
arranged? What do they use for impulse items and add-on sale items?
competition is already in place in your trade area, it is never too
late to learn what the competition is doing. We all know that customers
are a finicky group of people. A store that has lost customers can
gain them back with a new positioning of their product mix, marketing,
and branding efforts.
that is not yet in your trade area, be advised that they are coming.
Don't limit your thinking to thinking that the competition will always
be a "brick-and-mortar" business. There are mail-order catalogs,
the Internet, and concepts that few of us have even dreamed of. The
business format of selecting your groceries on your computer and having
them delivered to your door is something that has, for the most part,
come and gone. It will however, return in a different format. Even
the chain stores and mass merchants you compete against continue to
reinvent themselves in an effort to gain market share.
that next shift in the buying habits of consumers comes to your community,
will you know about it before it happens? Will you be able to make
the necessary changes in your business? Will you be able to say, as
General Patton said, "I read your book!"