Visiting Other Stores - Checking Out Your Competition
When you are out of town, do you check out the stores in the area you are visiting? Field trips are very important! It’s vital at least once a week to take some time to look at what other stores are doing. You should have three main objectives when visiting another store: 1) to look for new ideas 2) to do a little price comparison and 3) to get a break from your store. Let's explore these goals in more detail.
- Look for New Ideas - Above all else, this is the most important benefit you get from store visits. And the attitude that you have in your visit will ultimately determine how many new ideas you come away with. It's very easy to walk into another store and begin comparing it to your own. Often times it is almost instinct to hear that little voice inside your head going "wow, my department looks so much better than this" or "there's nothing here that they do very well.” In the end, it may well be true that your department shines more than the one that you are visiting, but, this inner dialogue is actually a distraction for what needs to be accomplished during these visits. The goal in going to other stores is not to compare your work with theirs, but rather to learn from what they do.
- Do a Little Price Comparison - It's always good to know how other stores are pricing their product. You certainly don't want to enter another store with a calculator or notepad and begin writing down prices. What works best is for you to target your five most popular items and simply check out how your prices compare with those in other stores. Usually one can remember the prices of five items and those are also the ones that your own customers will remember as well. It's also a good idea to check out what items are being featured in the other stores.
- Get a Break from your store - Whether from school or work, a field trip seems to do wonders for the spirit. Just getting away from the "office", even for a short time can feel invigorating! Take advantage of this once a week. It's also a good idea to take members of your team with you if you can spare the labor.
You must employ perception rather than judgment. I have never been in a store where there wasn't something new that I couldn't walk away with. The idea may be small and it may even be triggered by something that they have executed very poorly, but the idea would never have entered my mind if I didn’t first have an attitude of perception. So when you enter a store you are checking out, walk in with a clean, fresh mind - one that is eager to learn and ready to be excited by some new ideas. If you maintain that approach, you will be assured of a great learning experience. Make some notes after you leave and hold onto those ideas. They will be very useful!
There are a few rules of etiquette when visiting other stores. Keep your visits above board. Ask to see the produce manager or assistant and introduce yourself. Let them know where you are from and that you visit other stores as part of your routine. Allow yourself to be inspired by what you see and then take it back and incorporate it into what you are doing, using your own style and technique. Try to avoid "direct plagiarism" by doing the exact same thing that the store three blocks away is doing. Neither store will benefit from that strategy. Take what you see and employ your own originality as you incorporate it into your department.
Good luck and happy field trip!