As the countdown to 2020 continues, I am pleased to present more wise words about how to make the most of the coming decade.  These insights come from a veteran in the gift industry,  sales rep Gina Lempa of Gina Lempa and Associates.   Gina represents  Melrose International, Vickerman Co. and Tripar International in the Chicago area.  This year she celebrated her 25th year as an independent sales representative.  Prior to repping, Gina worked for two Chicago area floral wholesalers selling to florists and wedding and event planners, and before that she was a floral designer and flower shop manager – so altogether she has been in the industry for 40 years. 

Gina shares a quote from Thomas Edison to express why she is passionate about actively contributing to the success of all of her customers.  “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  Don’t settle.  As with all matters of the heart, you will know when you find it.” 

Here are a few of Gina’s thoughts on the most important factors for retail  success in the coming decade:  

Regarding Community and Connection.   I believe retailers can be even more important to communities, helping to establish and maintain the personality of a city or town.  A place where people can connect and build relationships.  Independently owned businesses can support their community through fun and entertaining events featuring food, drink and DYI activities.  Store owners and their staff can be influencers in areas of education and non-for-profit fundraising, in addition to being delightful places for people to gather and interact with one another.  Customers will discover what is new and trending as well as learn to appreciate things and traditions from the past.   

Regarding Technology, Online Shopping and Instant Gratification.  Let’s just be real about ourselves.   We have become an instant, on-demand kind of world.  We see it, we want it and we want it NOW.  That might mean sushi at 11:30 pm delivered by a food delivery service via drone while we have our feet up in our plush comfy multimedia sofa in front of our 70 inch 4K HDR Home Theater System with Smart Soundbar Speakers watching the newest just-released movie streaming online.   I don’t know about you, but that scenario makes me wish for more human connection – which is what bricks and mortar retailing offers.

One of my favorite quotes:  “Sometimes it’s okay if the only thing you did today was breathe.”   Find time within your busy work life day and remember to breathe, meditate, exercise, journal, express gratitude and be kind.  All the rushing and worrying and feeling overwhelmed will not serve you, your family or staff.  Your customers will respond to you and your employees and support you even more when they feel recognized, known and welcomed.  

Regarding Networking and Education.  Stay interested and engaged.  Attend workshops.  Meet and support fellow retailers.  Participate in online groups.  Develop and train staff.  Offer programs that educate and enrich.  Travel and take time away to be a shopper yourself.  Get a massage.  Find ways to give back to the community that in turn will support your business.   Take notice if you yourself are supporting other independently owned businesses or ordering from huge online sources.  

Staying Alert.  Pay attention to what’s developing around you and look past your immediate region and notice what might be influencing areas across the nation, across the world.  Have a gut feeling about something new?  Check it out, bring it in.  Ask your customers for their feedback.  If it doesn’t pan out, no big thing.  Go after that next idea or item that makes you feel intrigued or excited.  Keep doing what works and remind yourself to let go when it is time to let go.  

Think about your store becoming a hub of the community, a place where people gather, learn, share and support each other.

The photo above shows Gina assisting one of her customers in their goal of being a hub in their community.  For the past two years, she has volunteered at Platt Hill Nursery in Carpentersville, IL to help at their annual Holiday Open house. “Doors opened at 4 pm and customers were lined up outside the door. The parking lot was near capacity at 4:10. It’s a fun time!” she reports.  

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

PS Just a reminder that autographed copies of Specialty Shop Retailing: How You Can Succeed in Today’s Market are shipped free freight for just $19.95 this month. Click here to order!