Review – Winning at Retail

Lately, I have been re-reading some of my favorite business books.  “Winning at Retail” is one of them.  The authors have a solid history as retail consultants and they are passionate about creating and studying successful (and unsuccessful) retail operations.  In the authors words, great retailers understand the importance of two things:

1) Targeting a particular group of customers.

2) Carefully choosing what you'll be great at offering them.

A successful retailer understands that you can not be all things to all people – you must choose a specific target customer and then follow them closely to understand what most influences their buying habits.  And then you must and then you must build your business to become the best in that one area – as your targeted customer perceives it.  You must build your business around your customer.  Learn how to give them more of what they want and less of what they do not want.

“Winning at Retail” builds on the principles of the 1981 marketing classic, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” By Al Ries and Jack Trout.  You must learn how to be seen and heard in the overcrowded (and ultra-competitive) marketplace.  In this book, you will learn EST principles (NO, not those kooky Werner Earhardt seminars from the 70's!)  In this case EST is becoming the B(EST ) in one of these five dimensions:

1) Cheap – EST: Winning with Price – (e.g. Wal-Mart, Costco and Dollar General)

2) Big-EST: Winning with Dominant Assortments – (e.g. the “category killers” Best Buy, Home Depot, Home Depot and Barnes & Noble)

3) Hot-EST: Winning with Fashion – (e.g. Chico's, Starbucks and Target)

4) Easy-EST: Winning with Solution-Oriented Service – (e.g. Container Store, Publix and Kohl's)

5) Quick-EST: Winning with Fast Service – (e.g. McDonald's, Walgreens and Kinko's)

As in “Positioning,” it is vital to understand that the target customer's perception of which retailer is the B(EST) at offering something that's important (prices, selection, service, etc.) wins the game – for now!  Because, it is difficult to remain dominant in one of these 5 dimensions.  The marketplace is ultra-competitive and customer preferences are always in flux.

Smaller, independent retailers should not be put off because the author's mainly discuss large retail operations.  Anyone can learn the basic principles and adapt it to their situation.  Actually, because we are so familiar with the successful and unsuccessful retailers used as case studies, it is easy to understand why these EST principles are so vital to success.

I really like this book because it is based in reality – not some theoretical proposition.  The writing is conversational – personal – and the authors' passion for retail shines throughout the book.  They know each of the case studied retailers inside and out.  And – they never stray from their basic principle:  In today's market the customer is in control and successful retailers learn how to give their targeted customers more control in the buying process.  If you want to win at retail today – and in the future – follow your customers.  Learn what is most important to them and then become the best source to provide it!



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