Experts' CornerNews and Events

Finding Your Niche

I heard something interesting as I savored my morning coffee, while reviewing some older news pieces that are marketing or sales related. Nordstrom, one of the most prestigious names in retail was departing from its usual store format and opening up new locations that don’t stock inventory (this was in 2018). Understandably, my curiosity was peaked when I heard this startling bit of news back then, and I wondered (now) how things were working out. As it turns out, even Nordstrom was feeling heat from Amazon. The trendy stores which are called Nordstrom Local have a nail salon and juice bar—but no racks of clothing. The purchase transaction between the customer and Nordstrom happens online prior to the shopper coming into the store. When the customer arrives, a sales associate assists them with fittings and provides the personalized service the purchaser requires.

Creating a Unique Niche
Nordstrom has built its reputation on over-the-top customer service. The company saw opportunity where Amazon can’t currently go – offering a personalized in-store experience. The small, 3,000 sq.-ft. stores cater to millennial shoppers who want more from an in-person experience than is typically offered in a brick-and-mortar store. Survey’s indicate that 66% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important aspect of customer service. Nordstrom is a great example of an old school retailer who has continued to evolve and exceed customer expectations even when faced with intense competition from Amazon.

What You Can Learn from Nordstrom
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many retailers who have created niche businesses that are not typically found in home improvement stores. There is the retailer in Boston who is popular because his store sells lobster pots, or the store in California that is located near a golf course and sells used golf balls for fifty-cents because it brings in a regular flow of customers. Then of course, there is the storeowner in Chicago, who operates a business in historic Hyde Park, a community with turn-of-the century homes and apartment buildings that require vintage decorative hardware and specialty plumbing. In each case, the retailers looked beyond the obvious and took a different approach to get more customers to shop their stores.

But, you can also “do your own thing” by identifying a niche that will make your store unique, targets a profitable group of customers and leverages your existing strengths. Customers enjoy shopping in home improvement stores for a variety of reasons:

  • Personalized, friendly service
  • Local store based in the community
  • Know the products, give good advice
  • Fast service, no long lines
  • Sell merchandise not found in big boxes
  • Authentic experience

So, what’s the most important thing you can learn from Nordstrom? Don’t be afraid to change with the times and try something new to make your customers happy.

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