The fall of Toys R Us is a wake-up call.

For decades, Toys R Us was a dominant player in retail. It was a go-to store, the destination for both the latest hot item and famous established brands. At some point in life, just about everyone was a Toys R Us kid.

But that kind of rich history isn’t enough to keep a store in business these days, as the recent bankruptcy filing by Toys R Us indicates. For many, the failure of Toys R Us is wake up call for retailers.

But is it? Many retailers are succeeding. So the question is this: what does a retailer do to stay healthy, profitable and top-of-mind in an environment that makes it hard to grab — and keep — consumer attention?

Home Depot to Dillard’s, Kohl’s to Burlington — what makes a winner?

A successful retailer has qualities that are not too different from a successful person. In fact, the best stores seem to follow advice that could come straight from the pages of the latest self-help book.

What kind of advice would serve retailers well in 2018, as they strive to be successful in a challenging retail environment? Well, we’ve put together a list.

Five Self-Help Tips for Retailers.

  1. Be open to change.

The world isn’t static, so it’s vital for retailers to be nimble. When the market zigs, you have to zig with it. Consumer tastes change faster than ever before, attention spans are shorter, and technology drives everything forward at hyper speed. The stores aren’t willing to change — their offerings, their web presence, their locations, their staffing — are likely to struggle. No, a store can’t be constantly careening from one approach to another, confusing customers, but remaining open to new ideas is essential to retail success.

2. Be yourself, yes, but make it your best self.

Successful people are comfortable in their own skins — so are the leading retailers. Whether it’s in their physical locations or on their web sites, their personality is a winning one and it shines through. They have built an identity they can lean on — and they keep finding ways to make themselves a little bit better or more interesting. Think about the stores that continue to find traction with consumers — Nordstrom, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Costco, and Publix are some that come to mind. When you walk into one of their locations, you know what to expect. When you visit their sites, there is a connection to the brick-and-mortar stores. Consistency is in their DNA.

You could probably also add, “When you look good, you feel good,” to this bit of advice. As harsh as it might sound, it’s been some time since anyone saw a Toys R Us location and found it especially inviting. Whether it’s your online presence or your brick-and-mortar location, first impressions matter. And, to be blunt, Toys R Us stopped making a great first impression some time ago.

      3. Learn from your mistakes.

We all make mistakes in life. While it’s unproductive to dwell on the times you dropped the ball, it’s also unwise to avoid examining them. Failure, many believe, just means you’re getting closer to success. Smart retailers take a cold, hard look at missteps to decide if there are ways they can make tweaks to turn them into winners. And if something fails in spectacular fashion, they know enough to tread carefully in that territory again.

      4. Stay curious.

Most successful people are constantly looking at the world around them with genuine interest, and they often use what they see to inform their decisions. It’s no different with successful retailers — staying curious keeps them one step ahead of the competition. They have an intuitive ability to see what people will be seeking out and they mold their offering around it, sometimes before consumers even realize it’s what they want or need.

     5. Look forward, not back.

Spend too much time staring in the rear-view mirror and you’re not able to imagine what success will look like in the years ahead. Think about the person who always talks about how things were, “…back in the day.” Chances are, they’re falling behind as the world moves forward. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional sentimental look back — in fact, a bit of nostalgia can be effective for some brands and stores — but a constant wistful state is not productive. Build on past success, sure, but don’t rely on it as a guide for moving forward.

Nothing comes easy.

From Bloomingdale’s to Walmart, from Lowe’s to Kroger, there are few shortcuts to success in this challenging retail climate. But many fundamentals remain the same, and the stores with a devoted customer base don’t forget them. We’re looking forward to what this industry brings in the years ahead. It’s not going to be business as usual, but there will undoubtedly be exciting new opportunities for growth.

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