Retail icon shares tools and tricks of the trade
Cinde Ingram -- Casual Living, April 3, 2013
Whether you are an Independent retailer or someone considering a retail career, the tricks of the trade are spelled out in Joanna "Jody" Bradshaw's no-nonsense guide, Be a Millionaire Shopkeeper: How Your Independent Shop Can Compete with the Big Guys.
Bradshaw began her second book immediately after completing Jody, an autobiographical account of her experiences during her 45-year career as a senior retailing executive. She blazed the trail for women by breaking through the glass ceiling of retailing with executive level positions at Bloomingdale's and Macy's and leading the way in entrepreneurial roles as cofounder and president of HØME Ltd., and president of independents Workbench and Conran's Habitat.
Starting her new book was not only natural after pouring through her decades of experience to write her first book, she said. "Retailing had been wonderful to me and I wanted to give something back."
As a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design and as a licensed interior designer who has served as a director on several boards, Bradshaw considered mentoring independent retailers on ways to compete against the large chains via a classroom setting.
"My first thought was to teach a retailing class in the continuing education division of Bergen Community College and to this end I put a team of three talented associates together (all well-trained in their disciplines by the big guys) to teach various areas of retailing/marketing, i.e. visual merchandising and store design, trend spotting, etc.," she said. "In developing this concept I began to work with one of them, my visual merchandising professional, who had opened his own upscale gift store eight years earlier. The more I worked with him, the more I realized just how much he, as an independent retailer not trained in most of the mechanics of merchandising, would benefit from many things I had learned in my retailing career; and so, the book was born."
Bradshaw begins Be a Millionaire Shopkeeper by setting the scene of retailing today - noting the weak economy, industry consolidation, challenging competitive landscape and ever-changing consumer habits. She details retail industry consolidation and lists names of significant retailers that no longer exist. Given all of those factors, she was asked why she thought the timing was right to launch her book.
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"Those are precisely the reasons why I think launching my book right now is excellent timing," Bradshaw said. "The independent retailer can surely use all the help he can get in this environment. Given all these conditions and the ever growing power of the Internet, even survival can be difficult for some."
To help independent retailers to not only survive but thrive in the changing competitive landscape, Bradshaw advises them to define their target customer, create a business plan and refine its mission statement. She gives specific examples of mission statements that work and others that were doomed to fail from the inception. Differentiating the product assortment and deciding how trendy the business should be are other retail considerations. She explains pricing concepts, using tools like the profit and loss statement along with merchandising, marketing as well as why it's important to know what competitors are doing.
"Many think anyone can open a store, and it is true they can," Bradshaw said. "But to be really successful, retailing is like any other profession. It has tools, disciplines and skills that must be learned and mastered before one can achieve high levels of success. This book can help the independent retailer in so many areas to increase his/her level of professionalism to achieve that greater success."
She thinks any young buyer and anyone contemplating entering retailing would benefit from this book, but said her main focus was on smaller shops that struggle to compete. "The main target is the independent shopkeeper, the entrepreneurs and mom-and pop retailers of this world, who still account for about 28% of all retail sales," she said, citing the 2007 U.S. Economic Census as reported by Stacy Mitchell in "What New Census Data Show about the State of Independent Retail," December 2010, Institute for Local Self Reliance.
Her new 254-page book is now available in hard and soft cover, along with e-book options at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com via iUniverse, an Author Solutions self-publishing imprint. Bradshaw said she is still evaluating some of the promotional packages that are available through her publisher, but has in place a website (www.millionaireshopkeeper.com) and a social media package. A fairly significant distribution of the book went to key members of the media concerned with the target audience, and to various educational facilities as well as selected chambers of commerce where she may appear as a guest speaker.
Bradshaw admits she did little to promote her first book after it was published in 2010. "I wrote Jody for several reasons, most significantly because I wanted to chronicle how difficult it was a generation ago for a woman ‘to break through the glass ceiling in retailing.' I was the first woman in almost every job I ever had and held senior executive positions, including several presidencies, in leading retailers and wholesalers, unheard of in the '60s, '70s and even early '80s."
She noted that Accessories Magazine wrote in its July 2010 review of Jody, "With so many female top executives in retailing today, it's hard to fathom that this was once a radical concept. But as Macy's first woman corporate VP, and later, on the manufacturing side, as SVP of merchandising for the Simmons Company, she broke down the traditional barriers to her gender. Bradshaw proved that talent is the bottom line and that a woman's rightful place in the retail community includes the highest executive levels."
Looking back, Bradshaw said, "If I hadn't lived it myself, looking at the roles of women in American business today I might not believe that it was such a struggle then. As Fortune's ‘The 50 Most Powerful Women' reports in their Oct. 8, 2012 issue, women are chairman and CEO or president and CEO of: IBM, PepsiCo, Hewlett -Packard, Kraft Foods, DuPont, Xerox, Sam's Club and Campbell Soup, to name just a few. (And each is about a generation younger than I)."
In her first book, Bradshaw said she included descriptions of her early life, beginning in Manhattan and through her college years at Mt. Holyoke "because it sets the stage for the adventure my retailing career would become. As an example, I was brought up that ‘Bradshaw women don't work' and, to this day, remember how scared I was to tell my father that I had gotten a summer job. I also scuttled my application to Harvard Law School because, although I had wanted to be a lawyer since I was in the second grade, I knew that as a woman I would never become anything more than the clerk of the works."
Armed with decades of experience with big retailers, Bradshaw walks independent retailers through the process of creating a proper foundation, managing challenges and learning the skills they need to compete effectively.
"With the Internet, retail marketing will never be the same," Bradshaw wrote. "As I review this new medium and consider that much of it is nowhere near a decade old, I find the possibilities for the retailer today both endless and thrilling."
Joanna “Jody” Bradshaw’