INSIGHTS is an online industry round table. We send questions to board shops around the globe and post their answers. Hopefully the Surf/Skate/Snow industry will benefit and grow from these insights.
QUESTION: Amazon and Direct Sales are here to stay. How can brick and mortar compete with online?
Landmark Surf CO (CA) – Brick and mortar has to have a robust online component as well to compete. You have to be or speak to where Amazon is not and have products that Amazon does not. Competing against the brands online is much easier as we should have a more diverse assortment with more options to sell. However pricing becomes the great equalizer and independent retailers don’t have the margins to compete when brands go on sale. In short, you don’t compete with or against – you have to narrow your focus and be targeted in your customer acquisition.
Surf Ride (CA) – Shoot down drones delivering packages!! But also create a buying experience that the customer can’t come close to getting when purchasing online. We can also stock the hard to find things that always come up last min.
Asylum Surf Shop (CA) – Customers service and product knowledge is always key, unfortunately we can’t control where consumers buy their products, I hate it when a customer uses us to just try on products then they turn around and tell it your face that they are buying it from amazon. I wish sometimes we can just tell customer to f*** off for wasting my time. haha
Drift House (FL) – We have found that this cannot be viewed as a competition, but an opportunity and a challenge to grow our company as a whole. We have embraced the idea of online sales, through multiple channels, as they are all tools that can work together to improve the Brick and Mortar side of our business. We feel that if you are not progressing, if you are not changing and evolving and embracing technology and making the most of the new features that come with it, then you are stagnant and fading away. It is either embrace and change with the times as they come, or sit back and let the commerce world pass you by. Do big box online sales channels offer challenges to brick and mortar? Absolutely. But we choose to embrace these challenges, face them head on, and use them to our advantage. Seeing as we treat our brick and mortar sales and our online store as two separate projects within themselves, our advice to businesses who view it as a competition is this: Embrace your community, get involved with the movers and the shakers within your city and find out what it needs. Nurture relationships with every customer who comes in to the store, volunteer at events for charities in need, create something within your community so valuable that even online monster retailers can’t take it away. People are embracing real relationships now more than ever, since raw human interaction has been on a constant decline with the introduction of smartphones and social media apps. Provide an experience in your store, and give people a reason to trust you and your business. Train your staff to view it the same way.
Nova Fun Surf Shop (France) – We have to listen to people needs. Advice is the key. customers come to surf shops to have advice and to find the right item according to their surfing level. That’s the same with clothing, sunglasses or shoes…
Victor Tilley (Former owner of Red Herring Surf Tasmania, AU) – Fight the good fight. You can never compete on price or range so dont try to. Build your community every day in every way you can. Instil this into every member of your staff, whether they are frontline or not. Make sure they are proud to work at your store and share your beliefs. Ensure this is true of everyone involved directly or indirectly with your store, and by this I mean team riders/ ambassadors but also down to the delivery crew, anyone at all who comes into your sphere of contact. Work really hard on the bottom line, rents, electricity, water, car etc etc Look at your pricing structures and you may find small improvements you can make, even just an extra 50c or a dollar on some articles may not make a difference in sales but will impact your profitability. Over time these will add up. The old saying of “look after the cents and the dollars will take care of themselves” is always something to refer back to. I know it sounds obvious but make the reasons to visit your store compelling, have plenty of events, get into charity work (IE: Movember is on in Australia now and the surf industry was an early and big player in this), there are a lot of things you can do, set your sights low and just give some stuff a crack. If you get ten people along it has been a success.
Heritage Surf Shop (NJ) – Focus on variety in your assortments, have the best customer service and communicate your community activations through social media. Educate customers on why surf specialty shops needs to exist for your town to thrive. Offer your own brand only available in your stores.
Fluid Surf Shop (FL) – Be nice to everyone that comes into my store…I’m sincerely stoked they came by.
Sweet Water Surf Shop (NC) – Little events to bring stoke and interest to the store. More unique items found in the store.
Aussie Island (NC) – By having competitive prices. Everyone likes to be able to touch and feel products.
Surf Connection (CA) – We compete by providing the customer an experience of connection with another human, an opportunity to build a long standing relationship. Building relationships with our customers and their families at the store as well as in the community is important to us.
Sunrise Surf Shop (Jax Beach, FL) – We can’t, as far as price, convenience and accessibility. So this goes back to the previous answer, we offer something that you can’t get online. We offer a fun experience and access to some of the most knowledgeable people who have lived this lifestyle since day one.
Ohana Surf Shop (FL) – Customer service.
Pit Surf Shop (FL) – They can offer items on their own website that are exclusive (IE shop specific clothing and accessories).
The Exchange Collective (CA) – Did you make these questions just for Exchange Collective? Simple retailers need to focus on experience and look to adopt technologies that help them become a online marketplace for the consumer.