With the iconic Toys ‘R’ Us announcing they are closing their doors forever, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we do business. You don’t have to have kids to know that for more than 65 years, Toys ‘R’ Us was the place to buy the hottest toys. Parents dreaded going there because it was always crazy. The kids would run all over the store like lunatics (just like my darling nephews used to do….when they were cute), the parents would freak out at the price tags…a trip to Toys ‘R’ Us was just good old-fashioned family fun!

The Toys ‘R’ Us business model worked for many, many years. Unfortunately, now that times have changed, the store was unable to create a compelling message for consumers to shop there, a reason that countered the convenience of shopping  Amazon or eBay from the comfort of their own home.  And they didn’t figure out how to build consumer loyalty.  Toss in competitive pricing from the other discount marketplaces — the cherry on top — Toys ‘R’ Us sadly became a dinosaur in their niche.

Another less popular store closing soon is Bon-Ton. In case you’re not familiar, Bon-Ton sells higher-end clothing, accessories and other products: the sort of product you might find in Macy’s. Bon-Ton is liquidating its stores in twelve weeks and I’m not sure why they are going out of business.  I assume it’s the same reason as Toys ‘R’ Us, and the same reason Macy’s and Gap have closed dozens of stores. Why spend $30 for a name brand item at Bon-Ton when you can buy it for $20 somewhere else?

This brings me to the point that sometimes no matter how much money you put into marketing and how strategic you are with your business, it all comes back to the great product or service and consumer loyalty.  If your product isn’t unique, you really have to stay on top of the market. If nonloyal consumers can find your product or service for less somewhere else, your business may fail. If you’re lucky, it will take 65 years. In some cases, it might only take 65 days.

If your virtual assistant isn’t researching the market for you and helping to build brand loyalty, now is the time to ask them to do that! Make sure you’re staying competitive. Coming up with a plan to ensure you don’t become a dinosaur in your niche is important. Talk it out. Bounce ideas off of each other. Then tap into your trusty assistant to stay on top of things for you.  They can collect info on what consumers value most, where they spend their time, the digital tools they use and so much more.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to say goodbye to an American icon within the next few weeks. If a giant like Toys ‘R’ Us can go down, small businesses really have to be on point, so let’s make sure you’re ready for the future.

Yours in the adventure,