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How Do I Find My Niche?

A niche. A niche. My kingdom for a niche. All great retail success stories started with one. All of them then used this niche to underpin incremental growth beyond their start-point, adding layers of new lines or product categories that powered their increasing prosperity.

There is a truism in retail today that is critical to understand – no customer needs another (fill in the blank) store. By that I mean every need we have as shoppers is already covered and shopping behaviour is set. Just opening up another me-too offer will not lead to success because the customers shopping pattern is already formed and getting them to re-set it means doing something which they recognise as rewarding enough to change.

And we all know how hard it is to change how we do things, don’t we?

Most niche’s originate from functional benefit rather than break-through innovation.

So the question you need to ask your self is “what is the problem, issue or need that I can solve for my customer profitably?” Observe your customers. Ask your store staff what they are seeing. Think about your own shopping experience and that of your family and friends. Immerse yourself in the customer’s world and the answer comes pretty quickly.

Then your commercial skills swing into action to determine how you can deliver a functional benefit to the customer in a profitable way and how you can leverage that benefit to make you famous.

A niche is like opening the door to success about ten centimetres or so. It is the beginning of the road not the destination. It takes – as it always does in retail – superior execution skills to capitalise on a niche opportunity and to sequentially broaden it to gain critical mass, scale and volume. But a niche and the halo of differentiation it gives you with customers is what will allow you to compete with other already established rivals.

There are consultants, mentors and experienced retail colleagues you trust who have been down this road before and there are simple processes and exercises that can help you to unearth your niche and show you how to build upon it.

It is critical for your business to understand its niche and exploit it rather to fall into the trap of being just another me-too.

Because when you find your niche, your kingdom will also come into view.