From Local Store to Established Brand and “Third Place”

4 Ways to Increase Your Retail Turnover

Retailers who turn their stores into brands and “third places” can increase their turnover in the long run. Under one crucial condition: You must know your values and make them part of your customers’ experience.  

With the upcoming Christmas season, many traditional retailers probably look at the increasing sales figures of online retailers and frown. But instead of feeling defeated in light of this imbalance of power, I want to equip you with the right tools and strategies so that you can increase your retail turnover – all year around.   

Your Identity as a Retail Brand

Recent survey results (FOM/ifes; Ernst & Young) confirm that, in the days before Christmas, customers care little about casually strolls through your store. They don’t want to linger longer than necessary or seek inspiration for Uncle Joe’s last-minute present. Only 39% of respondents said that they value a store’s atmosphere when they hunt down gifts. What was important to them, however, was this: the better judgment of products (79% - as opposed to online shopping), good customer service and high product quality (68%) and taking products home on the spot (69%). 

But for customers to be sure that your store ticks all those boxes, especially in the pre-Christmas shopping craze, you, first of all, need a new awareness: You – the person running the store – are a brand. The language you use when you inform customers about special promotions and seasonal deals, your store’s atmosphere and how you display your products, how you handle replacements and returns – at each of those touchpoints you declare: These are my values; this is my vision. That drives me to open the doors of my store for you.   

Unfortunately, only a few retailers understand that their identity as retailers not only massively impacts their Christmas sales but – more importantly – their year-round turnover. With a specific brand strategy for your store and well-chosen communication tools and messages, however, you can turn walk-ins into loyal, returning customers. And that is true for both big and very small retailers. Therefore, I ask you: Make the most active sales time of the year an integral part of your store and brand concept. And ensure throughout the year that your customers know that, come December, they will not only find the perfect present in your store but that they can also take a quick breather and recharge their batteries. 

Turn Your Store into a Brand and “Third Place”

In the 1980s, the American urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the term and concept of the “third place.” He referred to a theory of Sigmund Freud who said that modern people only needed two places to be truly happy: their workplace and their home. Oldenburg, however, argued that people now and then need a “third place” as their refuge. A place that allows for social and cultural interactions outside the work and home environment. Oldenburg says that those “third places” are commonly characterized as “free or low-cost, with food and drinks, inviting, comfortable and easily accessible, with regulars as well as people who only drop in by chance.”

The coffeehouse chain Starbucks is one of the brands that has coherently implemented the concept of a “third place.” But even if coffee isn’t your daily grind, you can use some of the pillars of the “third place” and establish your store as a brand that your customers support loyally.  

1. Your Values Are the Basis

Staff, resources, products – the criteria you apply to decide for or against those who impact the success of your store send a clear message about your values. Of course, your customers won’t know why you print your promotional material on certified recycled paper or why you prefer to support your local youth soccer team with jerseys instead of donating to Unicef. However, those decisions express your values, and customers see that. They sense where their money is going: sustainability, community, the future. Customers who care about the same things do return.  

2. Personality Beats Uniform

Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day – most retailers have their eyes fixed on the big occasions of the year. But how about regional anniversaries or sports events? Do your customers know your store’s “birthday” or who you partner with in terms of sustainability – and what that collaboration looks like? Turn your retail space into a place where people come together, where personal and local concerns are just as important as the products you sell. Show your human side – that’s your major advantage over impersonal online shops. 

3. Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

Loyal customers rarely fall from the sky. To build a value-based relationship with your customers and then benefit from it during Christmas season, you need to be present all year around. When do you schedule sales campaigns, when does your product range change and who do you sponsor? Keep your customers in the loop – digitally and old-school analog. Crucial: Speak human; avoid jargon, fluff and clichés. Only when your customers feel that you speak with them instead of over their heads, you make your brand, well, more tangible.    

4. All Show and Plenty of Substance – Design and a Clean Store 

When people feel comfortable, they stick around – and not only in coffeehouses. Clean floors, dust-free shelves and tidy change rooms are a given, every day of the year. But there is more to the atmosphere of “third places:” the lighting, furniture, the smells and  sounds – after all, customers are humans whose need for well-being skyrockets during the stressful Christmas season. So, set up a comfortable lounge area and keep the little ones busy while the grown-ups shop for presents. Create the “third place” by imitating in your small space the hallmarks of human encounters: coming together, conversation, support and interaction. 

You see, in our hectic everyday lives, our social and cultural needs often fall off the wagon and aren’t met. That is why “third places” and value-driven brands will become even more significant in the future. They close the gap between what nurtures our minds and hearts and the more mundane things we must do to keep the ball of everyday life rolling. 

So, I urge you to review your store and brand concept critically. Use the specific chances you have as a retailer locally and in your wider community. Become the “third place” that makes people say: “I know why she opens the doors of her store every morning.” And in this way, even online retailers don’t loom so large over your head anymore – because you shift the balance of power in your favor.