Marketing Ideas Needed For Small Town Offline Retail

30 replies
I've just joined WF, but have been lurking here for a long time. I was hoping I could get some help with promoting my bricks and mortar business.

About my business. It's a retail store, located in a very small island country. We are located in the only city which is really only a small town. Much of the population is indigenous and do not have a lot of disposable income, though the store was doing very well until late last year. Now were are looking at having to close down if we cannot turn things around fast. There are no outlying towns of more than a thousand people at best and they are not located on our island. The internet is incredibly poor here and very few but expats even have a connection. However, mobile (cell) phones are popular and unlocked phones are our main sales line.

I need to generate some income fast and need some help.
#ideas #marketing #needed #offline #retail #small #town
  • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
    Tell us more. What do you sell? Do you have a customer list?
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  • Profile picture of the author mamadou douka
    Yeah Claude is right you need to supply more info.But Mamadou 's question is ,do you know why you were successfull at the beginning and why things are going down hill now?
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  • Profile picture of the author kebertt
    Would make it a lot easier to know what you're selling, but it sounds like you're in the electronics sales business?

    SMS marketing and direct mail could be fruitful if done correctly.
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  • Profile picture of the author islandgal
    Thanks. We sell and hire DVDs. The law has changed on this at the end of last year and we will have to stop that very soon. That's a fair percentage of our sales. Our main products are geniune brand unlocked mobile (cell) phones and cameras. In Janaury, camera sales, which were slowly declining, stopped dead. We also sell cheap Android tablets and mini laptops.

    One of the two telcos in town created a storefront at the end of the year, which took a lot our trade. They sell for less than any wholesale price I can get.

    There was an election in October which is when sales halved and have not recovered. The election process here is different. Everyone who wants to run, does and they are funded by friends and family, so the money went from pretty much everyone in the country to their family members political campaigns. It left the country literally broke.

    We have a limited customer list and now realise this was a big mistake on our part not to put one in place.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      I would be open to other ideas, but from what you say...maybe your business cannot be saved. I would either decide to sell something else, or move.

      I'm not trying to be mean. DVD sales and rentals are a dead business. The local economy didn't scare me, these things recover, but you may just be in a rapidly dying industry.
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      One Call Closing book https://www.amazon.com/One-Call-Clos...=1527788418&sr

      "Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity" Friedrich Nietzsche
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  • Profile picture of the author islandgal
    Thanks Claude. We've considered that. The economical slump here affects many business owners we've talked to. Giving up is the most difficult option! We are expats and cannot remain here without the business trading. If this business is closed, we have to start the application process again for another business and that takes months or leave the country. We have had this business less than 2 years and will lose our investment and repatriation is very very expensive and complicated. We are really looking for a few ideas to ensure we have given it our very best shot and left out nothing. Just a couple of thousand (dollars equivalent) is enough to make the difference.

    I have another question: Would you be willing to quit without trying every possible option, if it was going to cost you $50,000 minimum (on top of your original investment) to close the doors and walk (sail/fly) away from a paradise lifestyle?
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Islandgal; Valid points. I would change the business then. Don't give up, just jump from a sinking ship to a different ship. Add another product or service.

      I wish I had better advice, but this is out of my range of expertise. Anyone?
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      One Call Closing book https://www.amazon.com/One-Call-Clos...=1527788418&sr

      "Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity" Friedrich Nietzsche
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  • Profile picture of the author Kurt@viewswin
    Move to a low cost business, I am not sure what rent you are paying. However move to a business model where rent is your main expense. That way you can hold on longer. Can you sell coffee or something? What about an Internet cafe? (You said there was limited service there) at least with coffee (or something similar) there is not a risk of having capital tied up in stock that might not provide you with a profit. Also you can run it without staff if you need, and can quickly put in staff if you can afford it. Also it's cash sales! Without knowing your situation in full that is my best few ideas! Sorry your business is failing, I have been there and it sucks! (1 of my restaurants failed).

    Otherwise can you sell it? It is easier to sell a business that is trading than one that is closed down! Then you can re-assess you situation/goals. But it might be better cut your losses and recoup something rather than keep putting money and time in and then lose more. It's a really hard call to make I know. But think if you we're looking at the situation objectively (as if you we're advising someone else). What would you say to them?
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    • Profile picture of the author AndrewCavanagh
      I have to agree here.

      You need to sell something else.

      It doesn't have to be a product either.

      If you're on an island can you supply a service related to
      your current business eg servicing computers, phones,
      DVD players etc etc.

      If you've been renting DVDs you must have a contact list
      of your clients so you could email them or mail them all
      offering your new services.

      Kindest regards,
      Andrew Cavanagh
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  • Profile picture of the author kebertt
    The products you sell could be the biggest issue, but lets not neglect the other factors that could be effecting your sales. Just a few...

    Are you in a good location?

    Are your customers returning? What can be done to get previous customers back in the door?

    Is the customer experience positive? Are they serviced quickly and professionally, by quality staff?

    How is your signage? Are you visible from nearby main roads?
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    • Profile picture of the author islandgal
      Originally Posted by AndrewCavanagh View Post

      I have to agree here.

      If you've been renting DVDs you must have a contact list
      of your clients so you could email them or mail them all
      offering your new services.
      Originally Posted by kebertt View Post


      Are you in a good location?

      Are your customers returning? What can be done to get previous customers back in the door?

      Is the customer experience positive? Are they serviced quickly and professionally, by quality staff?

      How is your signage? Are you visible from nearby main roads?
      This business has been successful for almost a decade and suddenly declined last year after the election. There are a lot of things that are very positive about the shop. It's bright and clean and air conditioned (many of our competition only use fans) It has an excellent main road location, off street parking (rare in our town) and excellent, friendly, experienced, knowlegable staff. It has longer hours than anyone else in town, and is open every day (including holidays). Staff here are very inexpensive and we would save very little by letting them go. We couldn't do the hours by ourselves. Our signage is very visible, nothing has changed there.


      Adding or changing our products is a good idea. Services are better. Products take weeks to get here, even by couriers such as Fedex. Any change to our business products or services has to be approved by the regulatory authority as it probably falls into a new category.



      The business is also for sale, but the interest is low. The real estate agents have done nothing to promote it other than list it on their website. Typically businesses take a couple of years to sell here.


      I'm open to suggestions on how to get past customers back in the door. We do flyers in the post boxes currently with mixed success. Not everyone has a box though. There is no street postal delivery.


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  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    Computer and peripheral services/networking/repair. It's hard to find a good provider anywhere. I manage a small hotel and went through three providers and ended up getting the free wifi to work all over the hotel by myself.

    Could you become an internet service provider or reseller? Sounds like you'd be heroes in that area. I imagine it would involve satellite and industrial strength access points...
    I have no idea, of course, if it's feasible where you are due to regs, expense, technology...

    If you remain offering the same products and can't compete on price, you'll have to brainstorm ideas for adding real value to what you offer. An irresistible offer to your old and new customers - upgrades, exchanges, warranty/repair work.
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    "If you think you're the smartest person in the room, then you're probably in the wrong room."

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  • Profile picture of the author CreekChub
    Former ExPat myself (Zimbabwe, Madagascar, and points East). Where exactly are you located? (If I might ask...)
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    • Profile picture of the author islandgal
      I answered that question in a PM CreekChub as I don't wish to publicly share that.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kilterman
    She probably gets the Internet from one of the two telco's who opened the competing storefront .
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    • Profile picture of the author onthebox
      Hi Islandgal,

      I like Marty S suggestions. You definitely need to think "outside the box". Maybe think about selling "services" rather than "products" - as expats you would bring expertise into the community that they need.

      Don't know where you are - but if you are living in a developing country, then one of the best business models I know would be to help other people set up small businesses! If you were an "enabler" in this way, you could impact the local economy and help people take a step up at the same time. Perhaps on of the Telcos would fund an initiative like that.

      If you can't beat them, join them! The principle of "judo marketing" I like to call it. If you try to body check a bigger company, you will probably come off worse. But use their clout, influence and spending power to fund what you want to achieve - bingo!

      You often find that companies like this go for the 'corporate social responsibility' thing - so use it.

      Hope this helps.

      Steve
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      Steve Flashman works on and offline as a Marketing Consultant with a unique edge! He is a published author & recording artist, broadcaster & communications expert and he runs a charity working in the developing world. He also bought a Double Decker Bus on Ebay, runs a number of Community Choirs and leads a church and community project. http://www.businessexpresscoaching.com

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      • Profile picture of the author islandgal
        Thanks. There are some really great ideas here. Yes I am in a developing country. I've kind of looked at an internet cafe, but I think the costs are high but will check to see if there's a more cost effective option. There's a bank here pretty into social stuff, so it might be worth talking to them.

        And yes, I do get my terribly slow, unreliable and intermittent internet from one of the competing telcos. I pay for a sad 128KBPS and rarely get that. Download speeds are in the single or 10's of kbps when it's good! And for that, I pay what I used to pay for a 2mbps connection before I moved here. My shop connection is a little better, but is 4x more expensive.

        A coffee shop might be an idea too, but I'd have to check with both the landlord and the authority that controls expats actions. We have to get permission to make a single change what we sell. And they're not doing that for free.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kurt@viewswin
    Maybe you should focus your online efforts on selling the business. Guys on here are probably more suited to providing advise on how to do this! You could make a website for the shop selling the dream of life on the island! (Since you mention it is for sale). If you do not know how to do this then maybe spending $500 on this would be a better investment. You could ask your council what options would be available for incoming tenants, and have this on the site.

    It's really not difficult, if you use Wordpress and YouTube Instructional videos anyone can make a nice website for free. Just look up Wordpress
    Tutorials on you tube. Then maybe pay a warrior to get it ranking, (or whatever they suggest)
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    • Profile picture of the author islandgal
      I'm not a novice in website design. I used to do it in my 'previous' life before I moved to a tropical island. I haven't done much for several years though but have made quite a few wordpress sites including a few clients in the past. Years ago, I used to create .asp sites as I was pretty good at coding them to run off access databases and do all kinds of fancy calculations. Way out of touch with that stuff now though and wordpress seems to have taken over that role pretty well.

      Edited to add - I am already working on getting back into this, and am setting stuff up. Thanks heaps for all the help, it's hugely, hugely appreciated.
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  • Profile picture of the author NewParadigm
    be honest with customers and town leaders that you need help. I'd want to know what the population wants, find some demand. Sounds like you have advantages in your location. Talk to your landlord about reducing rent til you get back on track, I'm sure they'd rather do that than have a vacant space.


    Good luck!
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    In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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  • Profile picture of the author pingsters
    Banned
    I agree with most of the warriors ideas here.
    First you need to tell us what you are selling,then from that point we can know what to advice on the way forward.
    Cheers!
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    • Profile picture of the author islandgal
      We sell DVDs, lower end genuine unlocked mobile (cell) phones, cameras, unbranded mini laptops, memory devices. The town is being over-run by Chinese stores. They send staff into our shop, who photograph our displays, then they go and copy everything and leave no margins. We have competition from one of the two telcos who in the past six months has decided to dominate the country by undercutting everything. They sell copies and second hand phones as new. Phones were our largest source of income. Whatever we do, we must get permission to make any changes to product range, operation etc from the investment authority who oversee expat investment. Citizens are exempt and many of the Chinese have married a citizen to bypass the rule. Not an option for us! THe investment authority takes weeks to months to approve or deny applications and charge heavily for every single change, making it very challenging to come up with new ideas.
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  • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
    OK< I haven't read through the thread other than the first 6 posts maybe.

    You live there, you know the island better than us, what do you see as the next thing to hit 'big' over there, (as big as it can in a small place) , what are locals wishing they had access to now that isn't yet available, what new things have the new incumbents of the political scene been promising to bring about to the island, can you piggy back on any of that?

    Is the island a touristy place ?
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    Mike

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    • Profile picture of the author islandgal
      Originally Posted by mjbmedia View Post

      OK< I haven't read through the thread other than the first 6 posts maybe.

      You live there, you know the island better than us, what do you see as the next thing to hit 'big' over there, (as big as it can in a small place) , what are locals wishing they had access to now that isn't yet available, what new things have the new incumbents of the political scene been promising to bring about to the island, can you piggy back on any of that?

      Is the island a touristy place ?
      Yes, tourism is the majority of the business. Since I posted yesterday things changed again. This time for the worse. Firstly, one of our staff stole a large amount of money and gambled it at the casino. Secondly, today's paper has put a total ban on any retail business from adding any new types of product range that aren't already listed in the investment permit.

      The "next big thing" idea is a good one and we'll take a look. Perhaps it isn't in retailing. Since starting this post, we have started a marketing campaign in a different field, even though we haven't got investment permission to do that either. If we want to do marketing, we have to get permission and are then obliged to make a minimum of approx $50,000 USD a year or not keep the permit.
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      • I was going to suggest the same as mjbmedia.
        I would start asking around. What do people wish they had. Do you know people that have travelled a lot? those people will be able to tell you what they wish they had.
        I know being in Australia, there are so many things that I wish we had that I can find overseas.
        Also, I suggest watching Dragons Den UK and Canada and Shark's Tank USA, there are so many good ideas there!
        Let us know how you go with your plans!
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  • Do you have strong business plans and marketing strategies... Perhaps focussing on plans and making of a road maps would really help....
    Even I could help in making them if you wish
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  • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
    I know you are somewhat committed to this island due to investments you've already made, but it sounds like a right pain in the butt to me if the rules you tell of are true.

    The paper makes the rules of the land? or just prints them?

    OK so no new products, does that include services too???? If not then out wit the idiots , servitise your products (the opposite of productising your services) .
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    Mike

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  • Profile picture of the author webprogramzone
    For local retail shop it is best to market using posters or pamphlets rather than doing marketing online.
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    • Profile picture of the author Joe J
      I noticed you mentioned a casino.

      Maybe you can make some type of gambling app.(Outsource) (How to beat the casinos using odds)

      Or a lottery app.(Helps guess numbers or places they can play different lotteries around the world).

      Maybe become the store where people can pick up ebooks on different types of casino games and ways to beat them.

      Maybe teach yourself these methods and then teach other people and host different events at your store since you have the parking facilities.

      Maybe with some more hints from you about what else goes on in this place, you can get more ideas from here and save your business.

      Joe
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