Conference Notes

It was a successful conference on Recapturing Your Downtown in Wausau on October 22nd. The keynote speaker was Barbara Wold, who is an expert on retailing. She has been all over the world speaking for the International Association of Shopping Centers. She entertained us over breakfast with stories of retail marketing hits and misses. Her keyword was “experience”. If you can’t compete for the lowest price (Walmart) then you need to provide shoppers with a perfect experience. It is amazing how many retailers fall far far short.

I have been toying with re-applying the old 90/10 rule outside of sales. You know, 90% of your sales come from 10% of your customers. Based on Wold’s anecdotal presentation 90% of retailers leave shoppers with an unsatisfying experience. Even though as I have been saying for years retail is overbuilt, a savvy retailer can still win, because in effect they are only competing with 10% of the retailers in their market. You just have to be the one to step ahead.

I had great conversations at the event, with economic developers and small business owners all over the state. What about Rural Downtowns? was a common theme in those conversations. If 50% of the population now live in urban areas that leaves 50% who still care about rural downtowns. Linda Stoll talked about using the idea of the Third Place to revitalize Rural Downtowns (1st place-where you live, 2nd place-where you work, 3rd place-where you gather). The Center for Land Use Education is collecting data for a report on Third Places that Work.

My presentation on Finding & Nurturing Home Grown Entrepreneurs was very well received. Much of it was condensed to fit the hour and a half slot I was given. I will be posting expanded versions of the talk over the next few weeks. Please add any of your memorable conference moments to the comments.

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