Leveraging Their Talent for Providing Customer Service and Developing Innovative New Concepts Can Help Brick-and-Mortar Merchants Cultivate the Older Populations, CBX Executive Writes.
While lower prices and broader assortments of merchandise will continue to give Internet retailers a leg up on their brick-and-mortar counterparts, the latter can thrive by using customer service and innovative new concepts to cater to the growing senior citizen market, writes Crosby Renwick, Executive Director of Strategy at brand agency and retail design consultancy CBX, in a guest commentary that appeared in late October on www.chainstoreage.com, a retail management publication.
“The prognosticators all say the same thing: What little growth there will be in consumer spending over the next five years is mostly going to happen online,” writes the veteran marketing executive. “But the bricks and mortar model can start winning again by leveraging its natural talent with the changing conditions” — the graying of the American marketplace.
In the column, titled, “Advantage: Retail,” Renwick notes that retailers may perceive the increasing number of older Americans as a disadvantage to their business because these consumers do not spend as much money on goods as their younger counterparts. However, senior citizens do buy services. Brick-and-mortar retailers are in an ideal position to leverage their natural talent to provide these services, in turn distinguishing themselves from merchants that only conduct business online.
“Haven’t bricks and mortar retailers been in the service business all along?” Renwick asks. “Especially mom-and-pop stores, who buy, edit, arrange, display and demonstrate an array of products while bringing them close to the customers. That’s service. It’s a natural talent missing from the Internet; you can’t click and order services. Services most likely require in-person experiences within bricks and mortar.”
“The explosive growth of the senior population brings with it opportunities that go well beyond storefront medical and insurance services,” he notes, outlining several concepts that can be employed to fill vacancies in malls, strip centers and business districts. These include storefront “Senior Social Clubs” complete with gyms, reading and art programs, wood shops, talent shows, and other features intended to bring together like-minded individuals. Although services of this type could be placed in church basements and other locations off Main Street, being in the center of everything, with retail locations, ensures maximum visibility, Renwick contends.
Another option are service-driven integrative pharmacies that stock naturopathic (plant-based) remedies as well as Western pharmaceuticals, and concentrate on the pharmaceutical side of the business, “All the big drug chains turned themselves into convenience stores in the past 20 years,” Renwick writes. “Pharmacy is still a major part of their business, but nobody specializes in it anymore. And, what a giant, dependable business it is. Indeed, the elderly average six prescriptions per person, to be taken every day for the rest of their lives.”
Renwick also advocates the launch of “senior living superstores” targeted towards individuals over 50 years of age. He describes these stores as “one-stop emporiums” whose merchandise mix would include all the items necessary for modifying a home to accommodate older residents (e.g., grab bars, motion-sensitive lighting and chair lifts). Shoppers could also arrange for home-modification services, like elevator installation. Related products, such as large-print books and invisible hearing aids, would be available as well. “Today, the only retail place where you can access even a modest assortment of these products is a hospital supply store,” Renwick writes. “It’s probably located on the wrong side of town, it’s grey, badly lighted and there’s a wheelchair and toilet seat in the window — and probably a dirty window, to boot.”
Renwick notes that touting low prices on commodities is the only arena in which Internet retailers triumph over brick-and-mortar retailers. “Who wants to be in that business anyway?” he writes in the conclusion to the piece. “Let’s apply what retail really already does better — servicing its clientele — and focus those services on the exploding aging population.”
The full article is available at: http://chainstoreage.com/article/advantage-retail?ad=exclusives-analysis.