Green Diaper Demos on How the Retail Industry Is Changing
So I recently had a great and lively thread on my Facebook page about how Deal Sites may or may not impact Cloth Diaper Retailers. I am currently working on an article where I talk about the issues from different perspectives (retailer, customer, diaper manufacturer) based on responses to THIS survey. If you haven’t completed that survey yet, I’d love it if you could! Michelle at Green Diaper Demos offered to give us a little more detailed of a look at one retailer’s perspective on things, so I am happy to share this article. This article is not meant to reflect my own personal views, or to speak on behalf of retailers as a whole, it’s just a great chance to see one perspective–I think that always helps us consumers to understand the different perspectives in the diaper industry. Happy reading!
This comes on the heels of a lot of talk among retailers regarding deal sites, co-ops, and manufacturers moving into bigger stores. This article covers most of what the plight of the local retailer is and I know that Tara is working on her own article regarding some of these issues that will get into more specifics. The following is more general and is my own take on the market today.
The industry is changing. I was talking with hubby about it the other day and he explained that adaptation and innovation is required on a continual basis for any business. He cited Kodak as an example. While they were the innovators in their day (they invented the film for photo prints) they didn’t continue growing/changing as technology changed and the digital age took over and are now going bankrupt. They failed to stake their claim in the new technology and theirs became obsolete.
The same is true in the retail industry (not just cloth diapers). Small retailers can’t rely on old methods anymore. What once was being able to stake a claim on an area with a certain product no one else supplied and only having competition if another local store opened (not to say there aren’t other challenges too, but that is another story), has now become the endless competition in the online world, of which other retailers may have different state tax laws governing their business, have a lower (or higher) cost of living ratio etc. that can ultimately either give them an advantage or disadvantage in the ever widening market. Consumers look to online reviews and videos for info, shop at amazon and ebay, and increasingly stock up at co-ops and deal sites rather than going in to see the shop owner of a local store and picking their brain and taking their advice and buying from them out of loyalty without price shopping. While some consumers will always value the local retail stores, it isn’t the trend that the market is seeing. It may be a dying breed all together since the market will go to where the consumer demands it to go. If the consumer chooses cheap and deals over local and quality which do cost more money but has its own benefits in the economy as a whole with taxes etc. then that will continue to reduce the number of “local” shops. (and yes local is relative, I don’t necessarily mean in the same town)
As a retailer myself, I have found it helpful to focus more on my local market rather than play the rat race exclusively online and spend energy on a “service” (101 classes at the hospital and local baby store and one on one consultations) to educate and give the benefit for local customers to touch and feel and gather info. I don’t have a brick and mortar and don’t plan to due to the trends above mentioned but still feel it is important to have real items for the consumer rather than just online images. The more successful business I have seen have made themselves stand out, often by becoming a community hub offering classes on breastfeeding, carseat safety, and other natural parenting concepts that go along with cloth diapering, thus sheltering them from having to close up from low sales in any one category. I don’t blog myself but have connected myself with bloggers I trust and have a wealth of knowledge that can provide a symbiotic relationship since it is something valued by consumers. I recommend products I believe in and use myself rather than those that necessarily have the best mark up but are inferior to others. I make sales because the customers see my genuine enthusiasm for the product (hey because it is a great product!). It is getting harder with the Alva and other co-ops going around but if I can get the info to expectant mothers while pregnant (or before baby arrives for those adopting), they are more likely to buy from me as I “sell myself” -my expertise, my troubleshooting and they reap the benefits from all my trial and error over the years etc. Does that take a lot of effort, yes it does but that is what good customer service is to me (not wheeling and dealing as that is not sustainable) and many recognize that (though not all do) and my hope is that they then reward my efforts by buying through me. I don’t fault manufacturers for trying to get their products in the hands of as many people as possible, they are a business too, many of whom are WAHM or family run and need to bring the bacon home for their own families and make decisions that will keep them in this ever increasing competitive market. Yes some of those decisions make it harder for small retailers like myself but I am not so blinded by tunnel vision to think they are in business to support me. If I am going to work with them it is of my choosing but I need to do what I can to survive the industry changes and adapt myself rather than relying on others to hang onto the old.
What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you!