In retail, a “destination business” is usually described as a business that people go to because they specifically want to go to that store as opposed to a business that people go to because it is convenient or on the way somewhere else.
For example, a coin collecting shop is going to be a destination business because you usually plan to go to such a shop. You don't typically walk down the street and wander into a coin shop. A non-destination business would be a typical liquor store because they are everywhere and people generally go to the most convenient one without some kind of business loyalty.
As I was driving to work this morning noticed a strip mall that in the past couple of years lost both of its anchor stores – a Long's Drug and an Albertson's grocery store. What's left are a bunch of small shops without an anchor. Another strip mall down the road lost its anchors years ago and is almost completely deserted now.
As a business owner, you should never assume business based on the businesses around you. Especially now, when so many “permanent” businesses like Circuit City, Virgin Megastores, Starbucks and others are either going under or cutting locations, you can't assume that your neighbors will bring you business.
So, how do you go about becoming a destination business, especially if your business (like liquor stores) are on every corner?
First, you have to ask yourself if your business currently has any features that would make people choose to come there even if a similar store is more convenient. If you can't come up with at least a few reasons, it's time to spend a weekend evaluating your business vision. Hopefully you didn't start your business with the goal of “being just like everyone else.” If you did, you either need to close or recreate your business identity.
If you are primarily in business to take people's money instead of to help people fulfill a need or desire, your business probably won't grow like you want or last too long – especially in a world where a business' customers can spread their dissatisfaction across the whole Internet. I recommend reading The Loyalty Effect and Managing the Customer Experience for ideas on fixing your company's perspective.
A while back I posted about a local auto shop, Elite Auto, that has bragging down pat. Go read that post. On a sad note, one of the owners died suddenly of a blood clot last November. He was only in his 40's.
Keep in Touch
It's great having a customer spend money in your store but it's even better when they regularly come back. Make sure you capture contact information so that you can keep your customers informed about your store. I'm not just talking about sales promos. Give them something of value in a newsletter so that they look forward to it, and even better, recommend the newsletter to others.
If you like knowing that your customers shop at your store because it's convenient, by all means, keep running your business like you are. You should last until the anchor store in your shopping center shuts down or until another business in your niche becomes a destination store. Or, you could become that destination store and dominate your market. In this economy I'm placing money on those who choose the second option.
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