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HomeOPINIONFailures in mainstreet retail

Failures in mainstreet retail

Today was a day of being rather uncomfortable.

I had to have an uncomfortable conversation with an advertising provider that we had to cut back on spend in print.

Never a fun time. But being the nice lad that I am (and an adult), I went and did it in person, rather than phone or email. It was appreciated. And whilst it’s not something I enjoy, I was glad to rip the Bandaid off and move forward. Both parties were happy.

Health wise, a week of takeaways and a crappy diet meant I’ve had heartburn since yesterday. All the antacids in the world only barely cool the burn. My chest..uncomfortable.

To take my mind off it, I thought I’d try and relieve my other uncomfortableness.

Tight Pants. It appears my months of crappy takeaways and drinking excessively at work and home has finally caught up with my waistline.

Those years of trying to put on weight with no success? Memories of drinking protein shakes with gallons of milk, icecream, banana and peanut butter. Gone.

Welcome to the somewhat on-trend Dad Bod.

Hence it was time to head to a local menswear shop for some new pants. After wearing my window pane suit in Auckland.. and popping the  button off the hard-fought-for pants, it was time for some new strides.

Ironically (and deliciously) the shop is right next door to the best fried chicken shop in town!

So I wandered in, to the sounds of local radio playing bad rock – with ads for other businesses. Strike one.

The owner of the business approached me with a cheery ‘How are you?” (Good start.)

Me: ”Just having a browse.”

Shop owner: “Oh, you’re just having a browse? Okay then.” AND THAT WAS IT.

Bear in mind that this is where I bought my favourite shirt EVER on my honeymoon. So, very fond memories. (It was this eye-searing lime green Glo-Weave bodyline, for the fans).

The worst part was that the owner then stood in his shop, and watched me for the next uncomfortable five minutes. Strike two. I felt so terrible. (Even worse than when I was followed around Kircaldies in Welly… granted I was in a black hoodie and carrying a skateboard… 15 years ago!)

Now, this owner has a really tidy and clean shop.

Great range of product. Great brands. Well priced. But… maybe I got him on an off day?

Dude, I’m the target market? I’ve bought shirts for my last job from you? My wife got my dressing gown from you.

You have brilliant merchandising skills. The shop is warm. The range is great.

So, somewhat still feeling uncomfortable, and a little sad, I head to a souvenir shop further down the road. (More of a breezy look to be honest, as I helped run one for five years and like to see what’s changed, or what’s new in the industry).

HUGE store. Massive range of EVERYTHING. With terrible handwritten signs, oversized price labels, and really old-aged and dusty stock.

The initial greeting was a friendly “Hi, hows it going?” from the dude behind the counter. It seemed like a nice start – untill I turned around and the head was down as he texted away.

Bear in mind there was two other customers in the shop as well.

And I wandered round for five minutes while he just pretty much kept going. Shame – the two ladies were showing all the buying signals in the world.

Look, I’m going to come off as a dickhead. And we’ve all had days in retail where we don’t really want to be there. BUT.

BUT. BUT. BUT!

These are both small businesses. Independently owned. (No head office to whinge about or tell you what to do).

My question to you: Why are you still there? Are you really into this?

The massive discount signs you both were displaying show you need the business. Heavily discounting current stock is brutal.

There was other stores in town that complained big overseas businesses were stealing their customers. To the point of having little A4 laminated signs in the windows saying that when you buy from chain stores, you are funding the CEO’s yacht, etc.

Here’s the kicker: These stores had the messiest shops, stacks of unpriced merch, and the WORST service ever. From the OWNERS, no less.

C’mon, main street provincial NZ. We don’t want a street of (mainly Australian owned) chain stores.

Where’s the individual small businesses that make people get excited? AND DON’T BLAME THE INTERNET!

It’s a level playing field, you just need to stop smacking yourselves and your customers in the shins.

Do we need to have a really uncomfortable conversation?

This post originally appeared on Pinkham’s blog, Sophisticated Bogan.

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