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[Review] Retail Truths


I have a tendency to speed read and skim certain sections when reviewing books. But once in a while, you encounter a really engrossing book that makes you want to reread lines over and over again because of the inherent truths buried in those words. I had that experience with “Retail Truths: The Unconventional Wisdom of Retailing” by Chip Averwater, who discusses nearly four decades of experience gleamed from helping run his family’s fourth-generation musical instrument store.

In “Retail Truths“, Averwater offers over 400 individual insights for running a retail business. He looks into almost every issue that pertain to retailing such as dealing with vendors and manufacturers, planning store layouts, engineering quality customer service, competiting with the competition, hiring the right staff, and even dealing with bankers, for example. Lest you think these lessons are mere ideas, Averwater is clear to provide an example in many of the 427 lessons that occurred in his own experience with his own music retail business (Memphis-based Amro Music Store, if you need to know, and now one of the largest musical instrument retailers in the U.S.).

Here are four of those insights:

– The niche is your friend when you’re small; your enemy when you’ve grown.
– A retailer’s effectiveness can be measured by the animosity of his competitors.
– Low wages aren’t a bargain; good people are.
– Growth doesn’t produce cash, it consumes it.

For sure, if you’re looking for a more scientific or academic approach to retailing – such as the methodology of planograms for optimizing shelf space, for example – “Retail Truths” is unlikely to meet your needs. But for most small business owners who are looking for an insightful yet easily digestible manual of practical retail knowledge they can easily apply to their own businesses, you can’t go very wrong with this book. It doesn’t matter if you run a small, family-run hardware store, electronics store, or even a coffee shop – this book is going to be invaluable to you. I say this as a newly-minted F&B entrepreneur myself.

I know for a fact I’ll be constantly referring to “Retail Truths” in the course of my business.

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