We all know the state of retail nowadays. They’re constantly sobbing about how much business they’re losing to internet retailers.

However, not all physical retailers are sobbing. Some are doing better than ever. Are their any lessons to be learnt, I wonder? Of course there are.

Train your staff

This is the first major advantage physical has: you have the opportunity to engage us in proper conversation. Far better than one of those irritating and silly popups we get on the web:

annoying popup

I have no hard numbers, but my instinct is that engaging customers in shops is in massive decline. Quite often, I’ll have to go hunting for a staff member for advice. It’s not good enough. If I can’t find someone, guess what; I’m off to another shop that has better staff. At the bare minimum your staff should be trained in

  • Dealing with customers courteously and professionally
  • Product knowledge of your inventory
  • Sales training for upselling, cross selling etc.

Provide in-store demos

The other day, I was killing time and ended up in a shop that sells printers. As I was having a play with one of them, I was approached by an assistant and we had a chat about these cartridgeless models (that I was unaware of). She was helpful and I left the shop knowing something I didn’t when I entered.

But, you know what would have been even nicer? A demo. So I could have a look at the quality, speed of printing, that sort of thing. I think they’re missing a trick there. No one seems to have told the physical retailers that some of us like to view, touch and then buy the thing, in that order, on the same day. Which nicely leads me to

Make sure you’ve got what I want in store

I hate this. You find what you want to buy, get in the car, park up, go to the shop, and…

Sorry, it’s not in stock. We can have it for you by next Tuesday.

No thanks. I’ll get it from Amazon and have it tomorrow.

I know it’s not always possible, but your aim should be to have everything in stock.

Tempt us back to make the purchase

After learning about these new printers that don’t have cartridges, I had to do my research on the web when I got home. Generally, if I’m not sure if a product is right for me, I’ll research it on the internet. The physical retailer should have a strategy to handle that, like

  • Refund for whatever reason within 14 days
  • Discount if customer comes back to purchase within 7 days

There are lots of possibilities, they just require creativity and testing.

Encourage passion

Have you ever noticed that computer game shops are staffed by gamers? Many times, I’ve asked about some game and almost invariably, they’ll know about the game, similar games, what to play next. Sometimes, they get a bit carried away and rave about a game you’re about to buy. Their passion shines through.

Encourage expertise

Let’s say I want to buy a new TV. If I go to one of the big physical retailers, I expect the staff to be highly knowledgeable about the TV market. I’m not knowledgeable about them, I’m only interested in getting a new one if the old one is misbehaving.

Sadly, most of the time, they’ve got as little interest, or knowledge, about TV’s as I have.

Once again, not good enough.


I like shops. I’m not a massive shopper, but I’d hate to see them all go (they won’t). As with all change, opportunities arise. The big physical retailers were complacent, short sighted, and incompetent. They’re now being forced to scale back as their model was unsustainable (as is any model which relies on continual growth). Additionally, they should have fought back against the Covid regulations. I would have asked, why can people go grocery shopping, but not clothes shopping? Or printer shopping? If people are working from home, don’t those types of things become essential? Maybe they were happy to be put out of their misery…

The good news is that presents an opportunity for smaller players to enter the market who understand their audience better.

I for one, will be watching with interest to see what happens with all the empty shops in every shopping centre, everywhere.