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Look Into the Crystal Ball: What Might Retail Look Like in the Future?

The Small, Independent Retail Store Will Survive&
Small independent retail stores are not going to disappear, despite concerns to the contrary. There"s a portion of people who will talk vehemently about the unpleasant nature of urban sprawl, and they don"t just talk the talk ... they walk the walk. This segment, made up of both a young and old demographic, want and seek out shopping districts that feel personal. These customers crave that "Vermont Main Street- feel, and desire special items that cannot be found at big box stores. To be sure, small retailers cannot do business as usual to survive ... there must be a twist. It"s almost as if success comes to those businesses that have branded themselves as "non-mainstream.- A real-life company that"s an example of this sensation? Three words: Whole Foods Market.
And the Same Goes for the Internet Retailer
Studies by Forrester Research reveal that online e-tailers struggle with customer satisfaction. A giant 74 percent of online shoppers rank their experience as adequate at best. Shoppers want to be satisfied in a personal way. People have come to anticipate that free shipping or payment options like PayPal will be offered; these are not seen as benefits, but rather as essential offerings. If an e-tailer wants to keep customers, there is enormous potential in going the extra step and offering an extremely customer-focused enterprise. This will mean different things to different e-tailers. It may mean pet e-tailers will know the names of their customers" pets, or an online chocolate shop will send a small gourmet chocolate to customers on their birthdays.     
It"s About Developing a Relationship
At the end of the day, any retailer that can offer a special experience will rise to the top of the industry. People hope that the retailers they frequent will support their values and their community. When Wal-Mart moved in across the street from the locally-owned Meijer in Grand Haven, Michigan, there was an outpouring of support from the community for Meijer. Meijer had built up an unusual amount of goodwill by opening everything from a new hospital center to an indoor botanical garden. To this day, you can drive past the Grand Haven Meijer store and see customers flocking in, but look at the Wal-mart across the street and see tumbleweeds blowing through the parking lot.

By Neil Whitehall
Get Retail Jobs, Contributing Editor

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