By Paul Wolf, director, Retail Services, IT Outsourcing, Xerox

When F. W. Woolworth opened the doors of his new-fangled retail store in 1878 in Utica, N.Y., he is said to have created an American business phenomenon. He simplified the retail experience for shoppers that continued as a mainstay for almost a century.  In 1962, something called a big-box retailer opened its doors for the first time. It was a big Woolworth’s named Woolco. Shortly afterward, a newcomer named Walmart arrived on the scene.Who’s Minding The Store?

These days, retail continues to change, adapt and cater to what shoppers want, but the pace is faster and the issues are complicated. There are numerous stores, store types and formats, distribution centers, suppliers, store employees and, yes, technologies upon technologies. Creating the “right” experience—garnering maximum impact–is the goal. Store-level performance is the key. When Cathy Hotka, a retail industry veteran, talked to executives of store-level operations, they lamented these issues. Within months, she came up with an idea and formed the Store Operations Council.

“Too often, we forget what is right in front of our faces. We take the store for granted,” said Hotka. “The council builds on the value and vitality of store-level operations—and what it means for long-term success” Since forming in 2012, approximately 76 senior-level store executives have gathered in small groups to listen, learn and build rapport.

Ultimately, says Hotka, the council is about the end-game: Making sure retailers succeed, long term, beginning at the store. She offers these four tips for retailers pursuing excellence.

The 4 D’s that Drive Retail Excellence

  1. Differentiation. For retailers, this means knowing how you—the retailer—are different from everyone else. Culture? Store design? Pricing strategy? Communications? Branding?
  2. Distinction. Show the differentiation. Drive the distinction to all your stakeholders, from executives to employees, to customers and community efforts.
  3. Deference. WIFFM rules. The “What’s In It For Me?” requires us to step back from our GroupThink and inquire—to defer our assumptions—among our constituents. What do employees perceive? What do the most loyal customers want and think vs. “walk throughs” store traffic? More research.
  4. Delivery. Act on what you now know, and avoid half measures. Be confident that your data proves your direction. Engage, commit, then evaluate.

Beginning on June 18, store operations experts will again meet and collaborate at the latest council meeting. Why? Simply put: “I can fish with a pole, or I can fish with a net, but a net takes more than one person. By working together, the catch is always bigger and better.”