There’s a crystal shop in downtown Helsingør (the lovely city where I live) called Krystallen – a lot of my friends who live in the same city often talk about how it’s amazing that it hasn’t gone bankrupt yet or been a victim of what I call the “physical store death” A lot of stores in Helsingør has gone under, firstly because they build a very unromantic mall near the city center where all the mall stores in Denmark moved in -yeah it’s the same stores in the malls everywhere here, and secondly because of the financial crisis.
Well, one of the reasons it has kept its business up is that it has a very clearly defined niche (crystals, buddhas, angels, etc), and it has championed Business Unusual in the world of physical crystal stores in Denmark. it’s present at all the crystal healing fairs – oh and it has a webshop. So when people start to talk about how it’s weird that it hasn’t gone bankrupt yet, I’m thinking it’s strange that other stores aren’t doing the same.
Here’s what I see as some simple solutions to avoid store death/bankruptcy if you have a physical store:
A webshop is one of the simple solutions. I might even go as far as saying that it could be vital for existence in the future. It doesn’t need to be complicated to run a webshop, but it does take a lot of work. However, check out Moonfruit.com if you’re into running a simple webshop – or bigcartel.com if you are an artist.
Social media and Location-based tools Start surprising your more tech-savvy clientele with deals and offer when they facebook or foursquare check-in. Make sure that you “claim” your store on yelp and answer like this to bad reviews (from Adweek.com)
Optimize your physical store and make it sticky. So people are holding on even though they are not in the store. Yes, you need a newsletter with product info, specials, and identity. Yes, you need to do special events and see your store as having a small media/content-producing outlet attached to it – and get that Return on Involvement going. But you need to ensure that stickiness exists for all target groups, you can’t plaster your walls with QR codes and only think in iPad and iPhone apps if your clientele is 60+ years old- then you need to think about making a mail service where you mail out your newsletter physically to them – possibly attached with a personal note for good measure. As also, you need to have a newsletter sign-up list at the counter in your store.
Think in clusters
One of my favorite cases of optimizing/reviving physical stores (or venues as it is in this case) is the social media case of The Roxy – now I think social media have had a huge part in that case, but I think the real key to success lies in the ability to actually work together with other venues on the same street. What are you doing to ignite that?
So what do we do to the already empty stores that are bringing our city to it’s knees?
Well you (as a city, or the owner of the empty store) rent it out to somebody who has read this blog post and wants to sign this clause below – and preferably has hired me to help them out setting the system up:
Here’s what I want to see happening in Helsingør:
I want my favorite Café – Bakowski to know who I am when I walk in the door (hopefully they will do that now when they find out I’ve linked to them.
I want Isabell Shoes (a kick-ass shoe store without any web presence) to sell their awesome leather shoes online.
Oh and I want my bicycle store (Henriks Cykler) to do a delivery service (and cut back on the Istockphoto usage)
And my heel repairman to do that as well.
Also, Levende Lys is remembered by everyone in all of North Sealand – it’s a landmark up here, and it doesn’t have a website.
Oh, and I want the city square (Axeltorv) to become vibrant and digital.
Actually, I think the whole of physical stores should think out-of-the-box and embrace digital – but that’s just me. =)
I wish you all the best of luck in your physical/digital endeavors !