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If I Owned

If Bob Phibbs Owned a Jewelry Store, He’d Think Like a Millennial

Baby Boomers grew up looking backwards. You have to look forward.

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I WAS INTERVIEWED by the Associated Press recently about how consumer spending is stuck in neutral with growth at just 0.1 percent, and how retail stores of all sizes are feeling the pain.

I explained that the act of buying is a sign of a customer’s hopefulness. When oil prices plummet and the stock market wavers, when election politics are combative and terrorist attacks are relentlessly thrown up in shoppers’ faces, it makes everyone nervous. And people don’t buy when they are worried.

As a retailer, you can’t look outward for something to make your business magically better. You have to work on yourself first. Baby Boomers grew up looking backwards. We were steeped in what happened in the past. The few fantasies about the future — space travel, aliens, etc. — were about all we could look forward to.

I have news for you: Millennials have none of that baggage.

Boomers might stand agog that some millennials don’t know who won the Civil War (the North, in case that’s you) or might not be able to name who invented the lightbulb; they aren’t bound to the past. They innately seem to look forward to the new … the exciting, and that’s where they find the fun of living, in today and the possibilities the future holds for them. Sure they may not have a lot of money, but they enjoy whatever it is they are doing. Why do you think brands like Bonobos, Shake Shack or Hubspot are doing so well? They hire and feed on the positive energy of young people and in turn, give it back.

The election seems to have dredged up countless people willing to go on camera and say the adult life they are now leading isn’t what they thought it would be. I have news for you, that’s nothing new. I’m sure my grandparents never thought they would have to live through the Great Depression. I’m sure my parents never thought they’d live through the riots and wars of the 60s. And how many of us foresaw 9/11?

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We need to realize and accept that wherever we are, we are in “normal” now, whatever that means.

Maybe fewer people are coming through your door, maybe more are shopping online, maybe there are fewer opportunities for some and more for others. It is what it is.

Instead of looking backwards at what business was when Amazon was one-tenth of what it is today, the good old days before the iPhone was introduced, and when shoppers only wanted to buy, not rent … you have to look forward. You have to find a way every day to find the sunrise of hope.

Your own list and actions will vary, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Go through your leads, those people who have expressed interest in your products via email, those who have attended store events, or those you’ve given a quote to. Go through your customer list line by line and see who hasn’t been opening emails. Find a new way to reconnect with each of them.
  • Learn something. Take a class. Join my SalesRX.com tribe of thousands who are using my retail sales training to sell the merchandise they carry with an open heart.
  • Start your day with a glass of water and 20 minutes of meditation. Don’t know how? Check out Oprah and Deepak’s affordable 21-day programs.
  • Make it a point to set a date and visit one outside business a week to talk about what is working. Avoid discussion of what isn’t.
  • Seek out those who share your new goal of finding the sunrise. Avoid exposure to those who only see the sunset, or you’ll be just like them, stuck in neutral.

Bob Phibbs is CEO of The Retail Doctor, based in New York. You can reach him at (562) 260-2266.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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