Today’s best independents are obsessed with change. They’re never really satisfied. Not with the lines they buy, their staff, their marketing, or the way their store looks.

  • These retailers understand that nothing is ever “done” and that change is constant.
  • The best independents have narrowed their store’s target. “Something for everyone” and “never missing a sale” is not the way these retailers think.
  • Unlike many less successful independents, the best retailers sacrifice the occasional, “off-target” sale to remain focused on their target customer.
  • Best independents understand their customers. In addition to listening to their staff, these retailers work their floor when possible. Customer comments are encouraged and given appropriate consideration.
  • Best stores have exacting buyers. Being a true specialist demands precision buying and these retailers take full advantage of the available technology.
  • They know what sells and what doesn’t; they work hard to avoid markdowns. Maximizing original markup and gross margin are important.
  • The best specialty buyers are very aware of their open-to-buy. They stick to their numbers. They need goods or they don’t. They are precise about start-ship and complete dates.
  • Best independents understand the importance of essential or basic inventory. While this may be only a small portion of the overall assortment, these retailers know the significance of maintaining basic styles.
  • Best retailers provide both outstanding and unique service. With every independent focused on service, they know it takes an unusual effort to get noticed.
  • When an opportunity for superior service presents itself these best independents make it happen.
  • Best independents employ the best possible staff. They try to pay more than their competitors. They set goals and offer bonuses. They make their staff feel special. Employee loyalty is sought and rewarded.
  •     Best small retailers are realistic about their store. They seek opportunities and weather disappointments.
  •     Every retailer gets over or under-bought. Every store has strong and soft selling periods. Certain styles check; others bomb. These are not unusual events. Best retailers expect these challenges and are prepared.


“When you reach the top, keep climbing.” —Zen proverb