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Competing in a local market

Ron Furlong
Ron Furlong - Submitted

Chamber Chat with Ron Furlong

Retail sales as defined by NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) sectors 44 & 45 (Retail) make up 26.3 per cent of the dollars of the economy of Amherst and 33.6 per cent of the members of the Amherst & Area Chamber of Commerce.

So, this month let’s use this space to look at information we can provide our Chamber members doing business in retail.

Buy local. Support your neighbours’ business. Keep your money within our community. If you’ve ever heard any of those sentiments you have no doubt thought, “That simply makes sense.” And yet online sales or e-commerce grows ever bigger.

So how big is the e-commerce market? Statista is an online statistic, market research and business intelligence portal, headquartered in Germany with offices in North America and elsewhere around the world.

They report that in the past four years worldwide e-commerce sales have been: (in billions of U.S. dollars) 2014 – $1,336; 2015 - $1,548; 2016 - $1,845; 2017 - $2,304. And they further forecast that 2018 will be $2,842; 2019 - $3,453; 2020 - $4,135; and 2021 - $4,878 billion.  It would appear that getting people to “Buy local” is not just an Amherst or a Cumberland County problem.

The advantage local businesses have is that people do business with people they trust. When people trust you and your business they give you the opportunity to do business with them. It’s no guarantee that you’ll make the sale, but you’ll be considered, and you start the process in a leading position.

Chelsea Berler, founder and CEO at Solamar Marketing Agency, in a June 13, 2016 article appearing in Entrepreneur magazine identifies seven concrete actions that build trust in a business environment.

She states: “These actions build trust through communication, commitment and competence.”

1. Demonstrate that you trust others.

2. Create relationships that are mutually beneficial

3. Directly address issues

4. Tell the truth

5. Be flexible and patient

6. Respect their time

7. Deliver the unexpected

Although you could write a book on each one of these trust building actions, for now let’s leave it with a recommendation for you to consider how your business measures up on each of them. Really measures up, not just anecdotally where we can all come up with an excellent example of how we’ve nailed each one of them at one time or another. But how we measure up on every transaction we do. Every day. With every customer.

If you want to explore this more, I’ll be continuing to build on “competing in a local market” in upcoming articles. If you can’t wait for that, then study ‘applying lean to retail’ as a way to find out how you are doing day-by-day on each of those trust building actions listed above.

Ron Furlong is the executive director of the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce

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