Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Kim Perkins
February 1, 2013

Question: I am hearing again that a close competitor (five miles away) is telling people we are going out of business, which is untrue. Whether it’s a sales technique on their part or what, I don’t know. How can I combat this? Should I send out an email to my customers in case they have heard these rumors? I could assure them this is not true and if they hear such a thing to please let others know it’s not true. What do you think?

Answer: This is frustrating—I know from experience. Once, when we were truly struggling, a competitor started telling people that about us. Although, truth be told, I had no idea at the time if we would make it or not, I certainly didn’t want others to know—especially our customers! In the end, it turned out the other establishment eventually went out of business.

I don’t suggest emailing all your customers because this may just fuel the fire and put the idea in the heads of many who had no knowledge of the issue to begin with. Instead, consciously project longevity. Make some plan or announcement about a special event next year. Or create a yearlong customer appreciation campaign with a special discount covering various areas of your store for the next year (e.g., 10 percent off jewelry in January, candles in February, etc.). If you are solidly planning for the future and announcing it subtly, the message will get out that you are here to stay.

If you have it on rock-solid authority your competitor spread these rumors, call the store owner and as cordially as possible ask if what you heard is true. They will probably deny it either way, so you then can thank them for their time and, in essence, let them know that you know … and maybe they will stop.

Finally, be very cautious about what you say and to whom you say it. During this recent economic struggle, there were again times when I was unsure if we could weather the financial storm, and a few close friends and co-workers knew about our precarious financial position. My words of concern could easily have been shared with others, and I could have inadvertently been the root of a rumor myself! It’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution when expressing business concerns because customers subconsciously tend to avoid a sinking ship.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (www.elysianfieldsonline.com), an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to kim@retailinginsight.com.