Retailers on Red Alert: Are They Doomed?

Sears. Kmart. JCPenney. Macy’s. These are just a few of the growing list of retailers announcing store closures.  

And yet, at the same time as many stores are shutting down, Amazon is opening brick and mortar stores and recently purchased 431 Whole Foods stores.

It’s an interesting dichotomy and one I considered recently as I was writing a column for the summer issue of Chippewa Valley Business Report. I write a quarterly marketing column for this local business publication and like to try to align my topic to whatever the theme is for the publication. The summer issue will focus on the growing local wine, craft beer and distillery businesses in the area.

Their success, through physical locations that are drawing visits from locals and tourists alike, seems in sharp contrast to the woes of retailers closing their doors.

Why is it that some retail outlets can thrive while others barely survive?My theory, and the thesis of my next marketing column, is this: retailers that can deliver an experience beyond the product or service they offer can, and do, effectively compete with online options.

Whole Foods delivers an experience. So do the wineries, craft breweries and distilleries cropping up in the area where I live. 

Retailers won’t entirely fade away. But, they are going to have to find new business models. The successful retailers will move away from competing on price and, instead, compete based on the innovative ways they can deliver desirable experiences to those they serve.It’s not a new concept. In fact, a 2012 article in Retail Leader talked about the “race to the bottom” that occurs when retailers compete on price

Think about the retailers that are closing stores, or even going out of business entirely. They’re competing on price, not only against each other, but against the legion of online sources of the same products they offer. Not all consumers make purchase decisions based only on price, of course. Some like to frequent local businesses. Some like tactile vs. digital experiences.

It’s a numbers game, though. And, unfortunately, when all is equal (or perceived as equal), far too many consumers will make purchase decisions based on price, unless they find value in some experience that minimizes, or eliminates, price as a factor. Starbucks is a good example of this. So is Apple. 

I can’t have the same experience buying groceries online as I can at a Whole Foods stores. I can’t have the same experience buying wine at a liquor store as I can at a winery. In both cases, I’m willing to pay more, because the experience is worth it to me.

If you’re competing based on price, it may be time to think about shifting your business model to one based on delivering valued experiences. What does, or might, your market value?


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Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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