Retail is unforgiving. It makes no exceptions for holidays, offers no accommodations for special occasions and is undaunted by personal limitations. In fact, the fiercely competitive climate of the retail world is an unmistakable variant of social Darwinism. The best stores will thrive, beating out weaker, less amenable, or simply less attractive ones.
What does a store do if it lacks intellectual property or a monopolistic edge, thereby negating the possibility of compelling foot traffic premised on advantageous product? Or if its pricing is not low enough to be considered penetration due to a lack of economies of scale, yet premium pricing cannot be garnered due to a USP-lacking product? And if its location is nestled within the confines of a shopping mall, rather than showcased under the glimmering lights of Fifth Avenue?
Can it even compete, or survive, if its promotional arsenal is bound by a profitability threshold to appease its commercial banker, subsequently inhibiting ad campaigns of any substance?
In this hypothetical, the ubiquitous four Ps of Marketing 101 — product, price, placement, promotion — would dictate that this retail operation would acquiesce like the lame gazelle of the retail safari, reaffirming that a Darwinian, survival of the fittest industry is a deeply unpleasant one to be in.
How can the aforementioned hypothetical business thrive, in light of being inundated with such barriers? The answer is SaaS — Service (not software) as a Solution. I can declare this with confidence because that business is not quite hypothetical. Rather, it’s the store whose doors I proudly open most mornings.
At ROYCE, we put our emphasis on service because on paper, it costs little to smile, hold a door, demonstrate compassion, convey technical knowledge on product and carry a conversation. Undeniably, being open 365 days a year can be leveraged as possibly our biggest source of differentiation, particularly in our overly saturated monogramming industry that surprisingly does not work on Sundays.
We make a promise — no, a guarantee — to our clients. Come to our store between 11 am and 7 pm, and we will be there. Always. “Rain, snow, sleet or shine…” goes the mantra of the U.S. Post Office, and it applies to us at ROYCE as well. Our outlook is that while being open every day is great, being open consistently, regardless of conditions out of our control, is exceptional. One could argue that it is counterintuitive that a small family business would appear so capitalist in its ethos, remaining open even on federal holidays.
The thinking would be that the store would be more employee-oriented, closing to recognize holidays that coalesce families. However, reliability is something we hold dear to our hearts, as we also do with inclusiveness, wanting to provide a haven for consumers who may not engage in particular holidays.
Nevertheless, upholding that advantage is also the leading source of disappointed family members, frustrated spouses and puzzled friends. Especially when that Sunday lands on Super Bowl Sunday!
A seismic wave of unrest ensues every year, despite the egalitarian way (drawing straws) in which we select who oversees the store on Super Bowl Sunday. I worked the store last year, thus precluding me from being in the drawing this year. John, a diehard Falcons fan, was randomly chosen, and the cheerful color on his face quickly evaporated.
He’s a proud man, but if I was not mistaken, I could hear him hold back tears. This was his year — the second time in Falcons history they had made the Super Bowl — and after several worthy foes, I was not going to get in the way of John.
So, I took it upon myself to manage the store again this year, serving as entertainment for a handful of Americans and a few Australian tourists not fazed by football, witty ads or a Lady Gaga performance. I probably made $400 that day, nothing that would sway the profitability barometer in one direction or the other.
Service as a Solution entails seeing employees as more than a balance sheet liability and customers as more than a balance sheet asset.
A manager must service both the customer and the employee. Substituting myself for John gave me the opportunity to embody our sense of inclusiveness, and more importantly, to convey that we do not just take care of those in front of the counter, but those behind it as well.