Bad News For Big Retail

If you’re a retail business, you’re probably feeling the tightening of the economy pretty well by now. Sales reports from the largest retailers (Target, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Saks and Nordstrom) are more bad than good… and there’s a gloomy forecast for the coming holiday shopping season. Both sales and customer traffic are off according to the reports released earlier this week. But then with Katie Couric and friends telling us all how bad things are, it’s no wonder no one is out shopping.
story in USA Today gives all the facts and figures, and relates the obvious, retailers are worrying about the holiday shopping season as a result of what’s happening in the economy. The bailout doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot to free up all that credit… Wall Street is volatile, dropping 1,400 points in the last 5 trading days… world markets are reacting… gas is dropping in some places, but so are the temperatures, making prices to heat the home a concern for everyone. 
“This is not a significant comfort going into the holiday season,” said Ken Perkins, president of research company Retail Metrics“Everybody across the board is feeling it. Even discounters are going to have a tough go. Consumers are going to tighten their purse strings even more.”
The analysts are worried the retail slowdown could escalate as the credit crisis filters through the economy. They have reason to be.
So if you’re a retailer, what should you be doing? You’ll need to have the courage (and vision) to look beyond the present dark moment. A fantastic article on surviving tough times will give you some solid tips on what you can do to guide your business (retail or some other) through the slowdown.
My particular favorite of all the 14 tips is #12, about how you need to handle advertising during a downturn. Quoting directly, Studies have shown that those maintaining or increasing ad outlays during slowdowns wind up outselling rivals who cut back. Savvy marketers can boost sales and market share, even if the industry in which they compete is in a slump, by focusing on short-term tactical techniques such as sales and price promotions (including cents-off coupons and rebates), and tailoring advertising in response to the shaky economic climate.
What’s more, you have the ability, because of your size, to react quickly, to deliver on promises of quality, and to control the level of service you give. If you’re resourceful, patient and work hard, you just might find that these tough times are the beginning of the best prosperity your business has ever known.