Products, service and high gas prices can help stop Bishop leakage
On Monday and Tuesday evenings, The Retail Coach, a consulting firm, presented findings from the leakage study compiled for the City of Bishop, which showed that nearly $150 million is leaving the local economy on an annual basis. The local economy was considered all of the areas within the Bishop Retail Trade Area, approximately 29,000 people.
“We shouldn’t see this as leakage but as opportunity,” said Bishop Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tawni Thomson on Tuesday evening as she introduced Aaron Farmer of The Retail Coach.
Farmer agreed and added that much of that opportunity lay in expansion of services among existing businesses that could fill the gaps in the area. As an example, he used his experience consulting with a clothing company in Arizona. The company did not carry shoes, but by expanding that category that were able to bring in more customers.
Another biggie for recapturing the leakage, according to Farmer, was improving customer service.
“Saying hello when someone walks in the door is huge,” Farmer explained. “If someone in a store says hello to my wife, she automatically feels obligated to buy something.”
Operating during hours that cater to customers is something else Farmer found Bishop could improve upon. He claimed that he and his partner had found many stores in Bishop operate during the middle of the day.
“You are catering to the unemployed,” he exclaimed, pointing out that the majority of sales are made during 4 and 11 p.m. and on weekends.
Example: After listening to the presentation I left Whiskey Creek and went to find food and the internet. I had another meeting to attend an hour later before heading back up the hill to Mammoth and needed to do some work and refuel in the interim. I stopped into a local coffee shop, ready to buy some food and a drink in order to access their Wi-Fi. It was five minutes before 6 p.m. The girl behind the counter told me (very apologetically) that they closed at 6 p.m., had already put the coffee away for the evening, and would not allow me to stay past 6 on the internet even if I purchased something. Instead, she sent me to Starbucks, her corporate counterpart.
Avoid trying to compete with big box stores and the internet on price, Farmer added, suggesting using customer service as a tool to make it worth a customer’s time, instead.
“But you do need to change with your customers,” he said, adding that having a website for your business, or even a computer in the store for ordering items customers can’t find on your shelves, would create foot traffic.
Thomson added that surveys collected for the study showed that most people don’t mind paying extra to shop locally as long as it is within reason. One service considered outside of reason was groceries. Farmer suggested that the leakage study be taken to a corporate level, such as Vons, to show the companies how much money is leaving the local market. The high corporate prices are a major contributing factor to this leaking.
“Because Vons pricing is high, people assume local stores are too,” Farmer explained. He believed Vons would be interested in the information, and claimed employees of the store were already trying to get in touch with him to obtain it.
Farmer agreed with members of the audience that the best strategy for Bishop would be to begin by first looking at the areas with the most amount of leakage. If those areas began capturing some of the leakage, it would lead to a trickle down effect for the other areas of leakage that are not so large.
With continued spikes in gas prices on the horizon, Farmer believed that the time was right to implement the leakage report because members of the community will be looking to stay closer to home for their shopping so they don’t have to spend the extra on gas.
Members of the public requested that the 118 page document be condensed into about three pages so that businesses and interested parties not at the presentation would be able to quickly review and digest its importance.
“We don’t want the report to gather dust,” said one local.
Farmer said that could be done. To view the report in its entirety, visit the City of Bishop’s website.