Vince Lombardi, regarded by many as the best football coach to ever patrol the sidelines, had a very valid point about the game, and a point that translates perfectly to retail. “Football is two things,” he says. “It’s blocking and tackling. I don’t care about formations or new offenses or tricks on defense. You block and tackle better than the team you’re playing, you win.”
You must continually master the fundamentals, as they will be the deciding factor in our success or failure.
Among all the chatter of the “new normal,” the redefinition of retail, the challenges of getting back to business as shelter-in-place and essential business orders lifted, the focus has all been on change and evolution. In many ways, rightly so, as the “new normal” we’re now living in not only demands but requires change and evolution in order to succeed. However, in the midst of all that changing and evolving, we also need to remember the basics.
Think for a moment about the fundamentals of retail — our version of blocking and tackling. And just as Coach Lombardi concretely defined blocking and tackling as the two most important in football, define what the two most important fundamentals of your retail business are, because they will not change based on this “new normal.” Those who abandon their basics are doomed to fail.
Surely, we can all agree that the first fundamental of winning retail is our people. We’ve long been known for having the most knowledgeable and helpful teams in the industry, and as a result, we’ve become the trusted retailers in our communities for appliances, furniture, bedding and electronics. Our people define the experience for our guests, and while today that experience is one devoid of handshakes and hugs, their knowledge and ability to serve our guests and customers is more important than ever.
The economic fallout from the pandemic will be with us for quite some time (as will the virus itself), so consumers are looking to make fully informed and confident decisions. Our teams are integral to that process. Add in that tens of millions were forced into unemployment, and the opportunity to cultivate and field the most able teams ever is ripe. Remembering that we’re only as strong as our weakest link, today is a prime moment to make the needed changes we may have procrastinated on, and today is the time to invest in our people. Provide them with more training, more resources and more tools than ever before. People are our number-one advantage in the market, and even over online chat, video calls, or socially distanced sales floors, delivery vehicles, and the like, they will remain so.
The second fundamental you include in a renewed focus on the basics will likely be unique and will be based on who you are as a company. For some, expert installation and integration with builders and contractors will be the second pillar. For others, interior design will be at the forefront. Others still may lean into their ability to create customized sleep ecosystems for their shoppers. You’ll know the second basic fundamental that sets you apart. Select it with confidence, and create a deliberate plan to hone your organization’s skills in that area.
Never forget, it wasn’t the recent increase in online shopping, the ability to chat online, the integration of PPE into your customer experience, or any of the other very important changes in the retail landscape that made you who you are. It was your mastery of the fundamentals. Engage in change. Engage in evolution. But always remember that at the end of the day, the team that blocks and tackles better will win the game — every time.
Mike Whitaker is