Strictly Business

Wednesday, Dec 04 2013 04:00 PM

RUSS ALLRED: Trend analysis for retail entrepreneurs

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    Russ Allred, business consultant and author at Sunbelt Business Brokers & Advisors.

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BY RUSS ALLRED Contributing columnist

Who can read the writing on the wall? It is clear and precise, yet the author is anonymous. It tells of things to come, but the future remains unknown. A vast fortune awaits the able translator.

This riddle is revealed in the relationship between clicks and bricks or Black Friday and Cyber Sunday. There are clues in the cryptic digits teens text to each other, the messages parents post to the friends of their adolescents and the health habits of aging grannies. As an entrepreneur, a key to your future fortune is your ability to interpret trends.

The numbers don't lie: More people are buying online. It's cheaper, easier and you can do it in your jammies. Big-box retail space remains vacant because their minimal margins demand mass markets, but their customers would rather Google than get in line. The median age of our population is trending upward. More people are living longer. More women graduate college. Macho men are being marginalized. These are all trends and they all have dollar signs stuck on their tails.

An entrepreneur, reading the retail trend, might shy away from signing a lease in favor of coding some software. However, shopping is such a pleasant diversion that hundreds of coupon clippers recently set up tents to stand in line for a sale. A physical visit is often the only way to find new innovations. Many retail transactions require consulting from an expert. Online sales are all about cheaper commodities, but I think you must visit a store to discover unique novelties. Going shopping isn't going away; it's just evolving.

The trouble with reading trends is interpreting the twists and turns. Our teenagers are segregating themselves electronically. It is common for kids to text a message to the person sitting next to them. The trend is apparent, but how will it turn out? Will they become even more aloof or will the trend turn them into adults who demand more human interaction?

Here are a couple of obvious trend interpretations: Retail stores will become more entertaining and interactive. The demand for human contact and the spread of technical knowledge has already made Apple and phone stores the hottest retail in town. The shopping chore will become more of an experience with increased visual appeal and live entertainment. Consider Downtown Disney and other branded venues. To help promote the experience, you can post it to your "wall."

-- Russ Allred, MBA, is a business consultant and author with Sunbelt Business Brokers & Advisors. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.

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