The news announces that Sears is closing stores. Last week Macy’s and JC Penney made similar
announcements. What’s happening to big box merchandising? Some can be blamed on the change in buyer demographics—“shop ‘til you drop” baby boomers are buying less as they approach their later years; millennials are more frugal than were their parents. Some can be chalked up to the increase in e-tailers—the speed and simplicity of buying online. But, there is another reason—the return of specialty stores!

Customers today want niche, craft, small batch, specialized and personalized experiences. The last time I shopped at Macy’s I could not find a sales person on the floor to help me. The few present on the second floor on the North side of the store were all at a cash register. I left the store and went next door to a Gap. Two people approached me eager to help.

Customers are demanding service people with the expertise to help, the eagerness to host, and the willingness to create a great experience. When I recently purchased a new flight bag at the Tumi store in the middle of a huge mall, I got a personalized note in the mail thanking me for my purchase. I have never gotten such a note from a purchase I made at a Sears.

As your customers order a craft beer, look for something handmade, or visit a kiosk in the middle of the mall, keep in mind the features of their experiences—service made just for me. How can you transform a plain vanilla service experience into one your customers are eager to turn into a story passionately shared with friends?