Local workshops teach small retailers how to succeed
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 06:00 am
Independent, local retailers can soon learn how to take a shot at their larger competitors, following a six-session workshop on how to succeed and compete in a world increasingly dominated by big box stores.
The Northern Alberta Business Incubator (NABI), in collaboration with Sherwood Park-based Canadian Retail Solutions, is holding The Wealthy Retailer workshops starting Oct. 2 at their Campbell Business Park location. The workshops will give retailers the tools to assess their competitiveness, build wealth and garner new confidence.
“We look at helping retailers become positive in their cash flow and moving their business forward,” said Scott Smith, general manager of Canadian Retail Solutions. “”Really it’s about how small independent retailers survive and making sure that they have all the tools and … be viable against the big box stores.”
The key five areas of the seminar will focus on customer relationship management, marketing, selling strategies, retail technology and increasing profitability. Smith said the sessions will provide retailers with examples from leaders in the industry and more than 50 years of combined business experience by the two main speakers.
During the first session, businesses will also self-evaluate their strategies. Smith and his co-speaker Dan Holman will then take a look at the evaluations and tailor future sessions to areas retailers are struggling with.
“Retail is an independent world, it’s a lonely world. They don’t talk to each other very often,” Smith said. “So we ask them to write about themselves and to have a true look at what they are doing to ensure that they really are an entity that can be profitable and competitive.”
What keeps people away from smaller, independent stores is the unknown, said Dan Holman, who advises local retailers on business strategies from his home-based office. The big box stores will continue to draw customers with lower prices and larger inventory, he said. But smaller businesses have an advantage in providing better and personalized services and knowing their customers, he said.
One of the most notable changes in the retail industry in past years was the onset of the Internet and social media, he added. Businesses now need to understand how to use this technology to benefit their sales, market their business, attract new customers and have a grasp of what sells, and what doesn’t, he said.
“You know we have to change, we have to think differently, we have to act differently,” he said. “And part of that is giving ourselves the ability to be sustainable and to understand what it means to be sustainable so that we are here to compete with the big box stores a year from now, or two, or five.”
Lynn Carolei, chair of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce and owner of local Sublime Swim and Sunwear, said she introduced the idea of The Wealthy Retailer to NABI after taking advantage of Canadian Retail Solutions’ services in 2005.
With more and more stores leaving St. Albert or faltering to larger competitors, Carolei said some help and support is needed to keep independent businesses successful. Otherwise, she fears St. Albert’s shopping scene will lose in variety and uniqueness.
“I think the advent of the Internet and trying to keep people local, I think it’s been a struggle,” she said. “You can’t compete with the big box stores, they will kill you every time on price and volume, but (you can) offer something very unique and something that you can’t get anywhere else.”
The Wealthy Retailer workshops will take place the first Wednesday of the month, beginning Oct. 2, 2013 and ending March 5, 2014. Each seminar is held at the NABI Campbell Classroom at 200 Carnegie Drive from 7 to 9:30 p.m..
Participants are asked to register at least 24 hours before the event. Individual sessions cost $29 or $145 for all six sessions. More information on how to register is available by calling 780-460-1000 or at www.nabi.ca.