Retail Response to Down Economy: The Survivors & the Deer

deer in headlightsEpoch Design, manufacturer of the Mail Boss locking security mailbox, I have a unique perspective on the retail hardware domain. From helping hardware store owners and managers move product to networking with potential dealers at tradeshows and beyond, I have observed some notable trends in response to this downward economy. Specifically, I have witnessed two kinds of hardware retailers: the “Survivors” and the “Deer”.

The “Deer” are most prevalent. In response to bad economic times, they freeze like deer in the headlights. These people will continue to run their hardware stores status quo and avoid spending on tradeshows, thereby missing opportunities to discover new products that might increase their shrinking sales. Even with sales down by 40% or more, their plan of action is inaction: wait it out for better times. But I wonder if better times will come soon enough. I think many “Deer” are doomed to fail through their own inaction (and by fail I mean get run over by an 18-wheeler, to continue the analogy.)

The “Survivors”, on the other hand, are visionaries willing to implement new strategies (remerchandise, try new products, spend on advertising, etc) to SURVIVE in a down economy. I have heard of quite successful ACE retailers who have remerchandised their stores to cater to the DIY home painters, for example. These and other dealers appreciate the concept that in a bad economy, security sells: Consumers want to protect what they still have, which translates to investments in home security, locking mailboxes, DIY fencing and the like.

The “Survivors” (unlike the “Deer”) are out there looking for new ideas that will work in this economy. They are willing to try new things that make sense to them when they think it through. They are changing the look and feel of their stores to cater to the needs of average people here and now.

There is something else that sets this group apart from the “Deer”: Primarily, an open mind and a good attitude. They tend to smile much more and not worry so much about what might happen because they are working on the solutions in the present. Now. They are the optimists of the hardware world.

These are the people that have faith in US and our ability to collectively survive. These are the people who have the fortuitous intuition to see that our products just plain make sense. They saw the huge rise in sales in paper shredders over the last several years and understand the importance of the connection between a high security mailbox like the Mail Boss and paper shredders… (If you don’t get the sensitive mail you hope to shred because some mail thief steals it, the ‘venerable’ paper shredder is absolutely worthless.)

Based on my extensive observations in this industry, I purport this: First and foremost, in this economy the “Survivors” (and not the “Deer”) will thrive. Why? Because they will find what works.

In my humble opinion, in this economy people (American consumers) are willing to pay for “Peace of Mind” even when money is short. Why? Because they want to safeguard what they still have… what they can’t afford to lose.

It is these people—these “Survivors”—that have taken our Mail Boss product line and integrated it into their stores as a key source of income that keeps their customers safe at the same time. It is also these people who will make it through these tough times and come out the other side even stronger. And while many “Deer” won’t make it, for those who can see the light through the trees, we certainly extend an invitation to join the “Survivors”.

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