Q: I have a store in the suburbs of a large city and I’ve noticed two trends happening in recent years. The first is that the Baby Boomers, our largest customer base, have stopped spending as much, perhaps because they are retiring and don’t need the formal clothing they once did. The other trend I’m seeing is that the younger generation is gravitating toward the larger cities, making it harder sell to them in the suburban markets. Given this, what do you suggest I do to cultivate new customers?
Steve Pruitt: This is a tough one, and a question I hear a lot. So, let’s attack each issue separately. As for the Baby Boomers, who are aging and developing new shopping habits, keep these two ideas in mind:
1. Look to grow your market share of the Boomers that are still buying.
2. The Boomers haven’t stopped wearing clothes; they are just wearing different types of clothes. Get out, see what they are wearing now, and mix it up. Be sure you’re selling what these customers want and need now.
Now, let’s address the younger customers who are moving to the cities. This is a trend, and like most trends it will reverse. Look at all the 30 somethings that are starting families and moving back to the burbs.
Also, don’t over-respond—not all the younger people are moving to the cities. But, you do have to change to attract new customers. Hire staff in the age range you are targeting. They have a better chance of relating to these customers. Also, buy merchandise that appeals to the younger crowd, and try wearing it. You need to understand the new crowd. Remember what it was like when you first started wearing fashion, reflect, and embrace the new trends.
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