The Store Of Tomorrow
( Originally Published 1912 )
What will the store of to-morrow be like? Will it be one of a chain of stores, or will it be a big amalgamation of many stores under one roof? Will it be a cash store, or a credit store? Will it buy through some co-operative buying association? Will it join with other local merchants in having a common system of delivery at stated hours of the day? Will it cut out the jobber and buy direct from the manufacturer? Will it tend more and more to handle advertised goods, or will it gradually go back to handling practically none but unknown and non-advertised goods? Will it charge extra for delivery? Will it allow goods to be exchanged? Will it refund money for unsatisfactory goods? Will it pay its clerks by the commission system in proportion to their salary, or according to the present system of fixed wages?
Will it be incorporated and make its employees a part of the business, vitally interested in its success as their own business? Will it still pay out the vast sums of money that it now spends in advertising? Will the tendency be for all stores to keep adding to their lines of goods, or will the various allied goods naturally come together in one store?
Will the jobber, in order to preserve and increase his influence, more and more finance the retailer, so as to keep the retailer under obligation to him?
These are all pertinent questions. They are just the questions which every wide-awake retailer is asking himself. He is trying to figure out to his own satisfaction just what the tendency will be.
Permit us to point to some apparently inevitable conclusions.
Capital Will Concentrate
First, capital will continue to concentrate. The following are five of the many ways for it to concentrate :
1. It can concentrate on one big store in each locality.
2. It can concentrate on one management for many different stores, just as it is doing in this country and has done, to a greater extent, in England and Germany.
3. It can concentrate on jobbers supplying capital, and thereby controlling the trade of many retail stores.
4. It can concentrate on associations for advertising nationally allied businesses, such as is now being done by lumber producers, laundries, milk-producing associations, etc.
5. It can concentrate on allied manufacturing plants, and supply selling agencies with their products.
One thing is certain, money which is already concentrated is not going to be dissipated; the power that comes with concentration of capital is so great that it is not going to be used less effectively by being put into separate and unallied units.
The Small Retailer
If the above is so, then what is to become of the individual small dealer?
Why, he is going to be just as useful, and just as prosperous and successful as he is now, providing he deserves to be. He, too, will have to concentrate, but his concentration will not be one purely of capital, nor one of great buildings, nor one of many stores, nor one of enormous advertising.
His will be a concentration of personality, of specialization, of intensive service, of direct friendly relations with his customers. These will come about by his adoption of the sure and safe modern methods that have made success possible for the big stores and other big concentrations of capital.
The human heart is the same everywhere, and always will be the same. It likes company and sympathy and friends.
The small dealer who takes this fact into consideration, and makes his store in all of its dealings reflect his friendship, his appreciation of his customer's trade, and his sincere desire to be of real service to his customers in every smallest particular, will be just as prosperous in the future as in the past. Indeed, he will have a surer prospect and greater promise of success than had his predecessor.
The dirty store, the unaccommodating store, the careless store, the discourteous store, the crooked store, the lazy store, the poor-value store—they will all gradually disappear. There will always be some stores of that kind with us, but they will constitute a large part of the twelve or fifteen thousand failures noted in the annual Commercial Review.
Promises of Success Greater
Some merchants are inclined to think that the store of to-morrow does not hold out much hope for them. The fact remains that there never was a time when an ambitious, capable, courageous young man could start a store in a little town or a big town, in a Western town or an Eastern town, in the North or in the South, with a greater promise of making his store grow and prosper and expand until it became a factor in the merchandising of its locality.
Clearly Defined Methods
The door of progress is not shut. It is open wider than ever before. Never in the past were the methods of successful merchandising so clearly defined, or so accurately known; never in the past were the ways and means of building up a business so accessible ; never in the past were there so many forms of service with which an ambitious dealer could win customers ; never was there a country in which everybody had so much to, spend, and spent it so freely. Never was there a time nor a place where the honest, ambitious merchant could get fairer treatment from jobbers and manufacturers, or win desirable trade so fast for himself by giving honor-able, liberal treatment to his customers.
A philosopher wrote the undying statement that any man who desired to be greatest should be the servant. For centuries this statement was taken for a purely religious dogma ; now throughout the commercial world it is recognized as a business axiom of marvellous potency in commanding success.
The store which would be greatest must give the greatest service to its community. The man who would be greatest must give the greatest service to his clients. The party which would be the greatest must give the greatest service to its constituents. Service is the first and last requisite. It is the key-stone of the arch of success.
The annals of history show that the world's greatest generals have been those who began as common soldiers. They first made a success as common soldiers before they took the next step. They were successful in each position, rising from step to step because they compelled success through the carefulness and skill and reliability with which they filled each position in their upward march.
The First Thing to Do
The first thing for any business man to do is to make a success right where he is now. Dreaming of other locations and other conditions devitalizes and robs him of the energy and spirit to win against all odds with the tools and in the place where he now is.
If the merchant with only one clerk, or two clerks, or three, or four clerks, hopes some day to be a merchant prince, he must buckle down to the task of making his present store so clean, so friendly, so inviting, so serviceable, so satisfactory, that he will be compelled to enlarge it, or take on a bigger store, or step up into a more responsible command.
"The Store of Tomorrow"
The store of to-morrow will be more successful than the store of to-day; there will be less losses, less controversies, less errors. It will be more accommodating, more courteous, more serviceable. It will continue to give greater and ever greater value. It will find hundreds of new ways of being useful to its customers. It will be a safer investment for the capitalist. It will supply a surer channel of livelihood and success for ambitious men and women. It will occupy a position in its community which will give its clerks and managers and proprietors more honor, a better standing and a greater trust than they now hold.
Just a straw to indicate how recognition of the store of to-morrow is coming sooner than we thought.
Have you ever realized what it means that so many big stores are opening bank departments, where their customers can keep funds in safety and draw interest on them?
It shows how the public faith in the stores of service and of increasing usefulness is becoming so great that the public not only trades there, but leaves its money there in trust with the merchant.
All Hail the Store of Tomorrow!