Nothing wrong in starting a traditional business but add a twist or more

Sometimes, our start up ideas converges into businesses which are relatively traditional. By traditional, I meant areas like food & beverage outlets, brick and mortar retail stores or the usual stuff that one comes across in the course of the day. The reason for the convergence could be due to your expertise and experience in those areas. Or that of your partners. Then comes the hesitation arising from the apprehension of going into such a traditional business. After all, one frequently notices the recent demise of yet another traditional business in the shopping mall or the neighborhood.

The reason traditional businesses close down does not necessarily mean that their failure rates are much higher than others. They could be the same or sometimes lower. When a non-traditional business such as an online retail outlet ceases operation, it may not be as visible as the store closing at the mall. You may not know about it even after the online retailer ceases to exist. However at the mall, you tend to notice an outlet’s closure when the premises get boarded up, ready for a new tenant.

There may be sound reasons for wanting to start up the traditional business. However, as it stands, the chances of success may not be very high. It would be wishful thinking to assume that existing competitors would cede market share to your business without a fight. Therefore, one has to think carefully how the business can have an edge over them.

The answer lies in the title which is to add a twist or more to the traditional business. For instance, you decide to set up a retail outlet dealing with pet food, consumables, accessories etc. On its own, there may not be that much of a difference between your pet shop and those of your competitors in the vicinity. A twist to the business could be providing free deliveries for purchases exceeding a certain amount, assuming your competitors are not doing that at the moment. You can add another twist with an online presence in the form of a website or an app. Of course, the website or app must contain useful information and links related to the ecosystem of pet owners. This is where you add links to vets, pet hotels, pet transport operators etc. You could also sell your products on the website or the app. Yet another twist could be introducing complimentary services like pet grooming, etc. I am not an expert in this area but my point is that there are many facets to the business than what meets the eye.

Some of you may start to feel uncomfortable with all the suggestions above since your original idea was merely to set up a traditional pet store. In fact, the more uncomfortable you are, the higher the chances of success for this business idea. The fact that you are uncomfortable usually means that other competitors are also uncomfortable. Therefore you create a gap in which competitors have to bridge in order to compete successfully with you.

On the other hand, some skeptics may say that the competitors are already doing what was suggested. They may point out that the pet store down the road is part of a chain which has a website in which you can place online orders, groom your pet and so on. Not to worry, though. Competitors have their strengths and weaknesses too. They may be good with the brick and mortar pet store but not the website or vice versa. Find the area that they are not strong in and do it well enough for customers to notice the difference.

Sometimes less can be more. A different twist could be to dramatically cut down on the number of brands for each item in the pet store. With limited variety, the emphasis is on low prices with high volume compensating for choices. There are some advantages with this approach such as lower operating costs, ease of management and other benefits.

I am not suggesting that any of the ideas given above would definitely work given the complexity of the business world. My point is just to give you enough food for thought while you go about exploring your start up ideas.


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