How can smaller stores stay motivated amid a stream of retail bankruptcies?

by Steve Pruitt

Q: It seems like every day I’m reading about new retail bankruptcies and it really has me down. As a small business owner, how can I stay motivated to keep my business improving? Are you seeing a different outlook among smaller apparel stores?

Steve Pruitt: You’re right, the news can be depressing, which is why we tell our merchants to turn off the news. The big headlines are usually about large retailers who were over-leveraged before the pandemic hit and who are trying to get relief through bankruptcy or even have grounds to renegotiate their leases.

Yes, this economic slowdown is a challenge, but for many larger and mall operations, it was just the last straw on an already shaky foundation.

Here’s what we know about our independent merchants now: we are seeing sales improve week by week. They are still down 40 percent to 50 percent from last year, but business keeps improving. In some areas, such as resort locations, sales are beating previous years.

Womenswear stores are doing better than men’s overall, but there are outliers. We have some men’s operations that have really outperformed in recent months. These are stores that continue to hustle and be creative with how they sell. They’re also finding some pent-up demand on the men’s side, and they’re giving them good reasons to buy again.

There’s certainly some bad news out there if you are looking for it, but I encourage you to really focus on your local market. It’s all about your relationships with customers now and our smaller, independent stores are in a better position to rebuild those relationships than anyone else.


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4 Replies to “HOW CAN SMALLER STORES STAY MOTIVATED AMID A STREAM OF RETAIL BANKRUPTCIES?”

  1. There is a source of energy for me that may help others: I had stores in shopping centers and regional malls through the 80’s, when we hit a wall that I realized later had been largely created by nationals. I wasn’t paying attention as my malls had switched from 80-90% independent to 90% national in a very short span. They overbuilt, replacing good indie retail that participated in our local economies with “body snatcher imposters” that pretended to be real retailers, but were not. As long as the winds continued in their direction, they got away with it. But they wrecked the industry, leaving far fewer indies to provide the real thing. POINT BEING:

    Every single national chain that goes away is wind in my sails. I’m cheering on the implosion, not nervoused by it AT ALL – – – I’m gleeful. It’s good for us small guys, it’s good for America. I can’t be emphatic enough about it. Those stores created a cataclysm for independent retailers back then. Their failure now is simply just beginning to level the scales, and you’ll find no compassion or sympathy here. We have a LONG way to go. Yes, of course it’s vengeful. But it’s not hyperbole: It is GOOD that they go. The more that DO go (and the faster they get it over with), the stronger the upward draft for independent operators everywhere, in every niche and genre.

    ESPECIALLY now during this insane assault.

  2. absolutely agree Peter. You are spot on. The more they disappear and the faster they do the better for us. We may be able to come out of this better in the long run. The secret is hanging on. Don’t give away the store, give them service, give them conversation, give them a reason to come back but most of all tell them that your doing great even if your not. Don’t let them think your floundering. If they do they wont trust you or think you will be there or them in the future. Hang in there and good luck independent.

  3. I agree. With two busy women’s retail stores, the customers are back! They say they trust us more than the big box stores to keep things “safe”. Although our numbers are not what they were, they are coming back strong! Treat them right, remain positive, and they will come back! We pulled all the stops out, during covid with facebook time live videos each week. We called many customers and they responded. Remain positive and keep your store hours normal. We have had great success!

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