The Dead Pixels Society podcast

The future of retail with Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor

June 16, 2020 Gary Pageau Season 1 Episode 9
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
The future of retail with Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
The future of retail with Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor
Jun 16, 2020 Season 1 Episode 9
Gary Pageau

Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks about retail in the age of COVID-19 and civil unrest with Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor. A frequent speaker at PRO events, Phibbs has worked with some of the top retail brands. He and his work have appeared on ABC, Fox, MSNBC, and PBS, and featured in articles in Entrepreneur, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He also performs business makeovers for the Los Angeles Times and received the highest sales increase award from the #1 mall in America.

In this interview, Phibbs talks about how photo retailers need to adapt their sales strategies to compete and to thrive in today's challenging environment.

With more than 30 years' experience creating proven sales increases of 20-50%, The Retail Doctor can help bring your retail organization back to excellent health with amazing customer service.

Phibbs offers retail consulting, online sales training, and other services.

Show Notes Transcript

Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks about retail in the age of COVID-19 and civil unrest with Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor. A frequent speaker at PRO events, Phibbs has worked with some of the top retail brands. He and his work have appeared on ABC, Fox, MSNBC, and PBS, and featured in articles in Entrepreneur, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He also performs business makeovers for the Los Angeles Times and received the highest sales increase award from the #1 mall in America.

In this interview, Phibbs talks about how photo retailers need to adapt their sales strategies to compete and to thrive in today's challenging environment.

With more than 30 years' experience creating proven sales increases of 20-50%, The Retail Doctor can help bring your retail organization back to excellent health with amazing customer service.

Phibbs offers retail consulting, online sales training, and other services.

Intro - Erin Manning (2s):
Welcome to the dead pixel society podcast. The photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau

Gary Pageau (11s):
The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Photo Finale, Mediaclip, Advertek Inc., GotPhoto, EyeQ,, The IPI Member Network and Mailpix. The retail doctor is joining us from upstate New York. Hi Bob, how are you today?

Bob Phibbs (33s):
I'm doing great. Glad to be with you, Gary.

Gary Pageau (36s):
So Bob, you've been around as a consultant to the pro group for many, many years and have some deep insights into the retail channel. And you provided some resources to the industry on how to come out of the COVID crisis. Can you share some insights along those lines?

Bob Phibbs (55s):
Your listeners have to understand that we've all collectively gone through this giant break of trust and that we have to put the world back together again, you know, government isn't going to protect you. Public health, wear a mask, don't wear a mask, wear this mask. Don't wear that mask. Won't wear it for you, wear it for them. Matter of fact, it's like what, and even guidelines coming from States and counties and cities, and even within trade groups.

Bob Phibbs (1m 26s):
It's really hard. I know that I think J Crew's playbook is 78 pages that they were trying to put out that people should follow to, you know, be able to adjust with COVID and that's just unrealistic. And even the trust that somebody in your family could come home and suddenly bring death with them is a new thing. So I think it's really important for your listeners to understand that that's going to take a lot more than a discount or a coupon to get them back. A bike stores have been doing particularly well.

Bob Phibbs (1m 56s):
There've been some other hobbies that have done well, and, and yet a lot of them are selling out of the entry level because their employees are selling from the wallets. They don't have the, you know, they're worried about their future. They're worried about if the business has got to be around, they were furloughed. There's a lot of reasons, but the big danger has always been the same for a photographic retailers, photography retailers. And that's you assume that the reason I came in today was to buy the one thing I ask you for.

Bob Phibbs (2m 29s):
And frankly, if that's the case, I could have gotten it online. That's the mistake most of you make is you assume that because I asked for that, that's all I wanted. And you say anything else, but if I just needed that, you know, think of when you buy a cartridge for your printer, you're not going to go in and say, Oh, I've got to go down to staples. I'm going to try to get that guy to get his little scrunchie of risks of keys and unlock it. And you don't, you're just like, well, that's all I need. But when you go in the store you're, and that's the thing that 90% of the customers that walk in your door, I haven't changed.

Bob Phibbs (3m 5s):
They're open to discovery and to be wowed, to be merchandised and have a professional sales person, sell them more for their photographic needs than just asked and answered. And if you get that and you're listening to this, that's going to take training and it's going to take a different attitude from you about what customer service is.

Gary Pageau (3m 24s):
So you spoke about trust. Can you kind of expand on that a bit about what today's consumers are looking for when it comes to that sort of relationship with retailers? Cause it seems to me like with so much volume being shifted to Amazon, there's been a break in that trust, I guess is the way I would turn that, is that correct?

Bob Phibbs (3m 51s):
I need a little help on that. Where's the break between Amazon and

Gary Pageau (3m 54s):
No between the consumer and, and, and their local retailer.

Bob Phibbs (3m 58s):
I don't believe that. Sorry. At the end of the day, I look, people went to target and Walmart and Amazon because everybody else was closed. You know, this, the digital natives are going to tell you that everyone's gotta be online and no one's going to shop at a store and we're all getting coal for Christmas and no Santa Claus, you know, it's just not true. They've got this window to push that narrative. People have cabin fever. We're seeing it even as just yesterday, Macy's expecting only 20% of people back in the last week, sales of 20%.

Bob Phibbs (4m 34s):
And they were already at 50% and other department stores are reporting similar gains. So in the near term, yes, it's gotta be, you know, there's people that are not going to shop simply until there's a vaccine and they're adamant about it. And yet most of the world, whether you like it or not has moved on. And whether there's a spike in cases in Florida and Texas and other places, the world has moved on, we did it. We've locked. I'm in New York. I've literally been locked down for three months now, which I could not imagine when that happened, that it would really go til June.

Bob Phibbs (5m 9s):
So understand that anyone that walks into your store is really raising their hand and in hope I want to get back out there and photograph birds. I want to get my kids. I want to go on vacation. There's a million reasons. And if you're going to sit there and be sorry that you were closed for two or three months and bitter, and don't get me wrong, I get it. Photography, retailing, socks. My margins are being pushed and people are going online. The big boys are getting bigger. It's hard to find good employees fill in the blank and yet you're still doing it.

Bob Phibbs (5m 43s):
So why not just shut the hell up and enjoy it and make my day when I walk in the door, instead of trying to get rid of me, because that's the big mistake. I didn't walk into an online store. I walked into your store. So how are you going to get me to drop my guard, to trust you, to look at, consider something I may not have and ultimately compare and contrast and to buy more than I came in for. That's all that matters for you and how many people walked out your door without somebody buying it today.

Bob Phibbs (6m 15s):
If that doesn't keep you up at night, I don't know what should, because frankly, the rest of it is garbage. Rest is politics. The rest of it's all Chi what if, Oh my God, what if, no, what if I got a flat tire things? I think of that line from Rocky horror picture show, when you, you ever saw it in person, Gary, but the Brad turns to Susan Sarandon. And he says, if only we hadn't gone down this long road and the audience shouts back, You did, but you did well.

Bob Phibbs (6m 46s):
That's kind of the same thing, you know? Right. Looking backwards, not going to help you remember your customers are looking forward. Forward is hope. And if you can't rally that, then, then you have serious problems. You'd better shut up and not call your other buddies and find somebody who can help you see the future because that's all anyone's going to buy right now. They don't want your sob stories. They don't want to hear how COVID is this and that, and how worried you are. That's all about you. And frankly, I can get enough of that on the news.

Bob Phibbs (7m 18s):
So understand, especially if you're a high end retailer, I get it. There's a few big players. I get it. I understand it doesn't matter. I get the whole dating with camera bodies. I get all of it. But at the end of the day, either you enjoy working with people and sharing that joy of photography or you don't. And if you do, then now is the time for you to rise as your competitors fall away. And you maybe you're the last man standing in your town. Great. At least you're the one that's doing it. Cause you're listening and you're thinking, wow, I need to get my act together.

Gary Pageau (7m 52s):
Yeah. And there seem to be some sort of, I think there was a, some response where some people were kind of using their COVID kind of expose some of their perhaps weaknesses in their approach and they've closed. Their doors are shut down where others, I think have sort of, you know, like you said, risen to the challenge and what kind of messaging do you think retailers should be using now? I mean, you mentioned before, you know, don't coupon, don't, you know, that sort of thing is not necessarily what kind of messaging do you think consumers want to hear from their local photo retailer?

Bob Phibbs (8m 25s):
It's all going to come back to being transparent and being authentic. So escape the news with us. Let's get back to your life. Let's find a reason let's capture hopeful in a moment in time, it's going to be everything that a Kodak ad used to be 40 years ago and that feeling of nostalgia, but that feeling of time is precious. And that's what I would expect you to be able to do. And I would expect that your feed should be full of that. Instead this weekend only 50 bucks off on some offer like you did and it was 1970.

Bob Phibbs (9m 1s):
Things have changed and let's, you know, the, the other one in the room right now is a, the demonstrations going on for social justice. Are you going to take a stand? Are you not going to take a stand? Are you actively working to change the world? If you're actively working, are you willing to talk about that or not? I mean, these are bold times right now. And I think 2020 we've come through an awful lot. So let's look at who are the people that are responding to this, building a Star Trek world and realize that they are loyal and they're going to help you in your, in your marketing and your social media.

Gary Pageau (9m 45s):
And we haven't even gotten to murder hormones yet

Bob Phibbs (9m 50s):
talking about the greatest click bait of 2020, my goodness.

Gary Pageau (9m 54s):
Yeah, exactly. So you've been able to provide some resources to the industry. Can you kind of go over that and maybe tell people where they can get more information.

Bob Phibbs (10m 4s):
You can always go to and you can certainly find a lot of my resources there. You'll be able to sign up for my free retailing. "The time of COVID," where we talk about how to use social media, how to greet customers, how to make it all better, understand that you're gonna have to clean things better than ever. Also sales are extras. My online retail sales training program. If you are committed to doing a better job and you're tired of just hiring hobbyists and you really want to hire people that can actually move your merch.

Bob Phibbs (10m 36s):
You know, I had a new customer the other day and he made the greatest comment. I says, why did you get SalesRx? He goes, well, I can sell anything, but the rest of my employees can just be nice. And I thought that was great. Cause he said, you know, friendly, isn't really that hard, but getting them to actually take that friendliness and be able to sell it makes a difference. So that, and you know, certainly follow me on Facebook. I do a Facebook live every said, Sunday morning, I've done for three years where I answer your questions and join me on LinkedIn.

Bob Phibbs (11m 8s):
I mean, you would be hard pressed not to be able to find the retail doctor online. There you go.

Gary Pageau (11m 15s):
So you work with other industries, right? Besides that, besides photography? What are some of the things you've been able to bring over from other industries into photography that would be relevant to photo retailers?

Bob Phibbs (11m 34s):
I think the hardest thing for specialty retailers who carry premium products, and that would be photography retailers along with jewelers and bicycle companies. And I can't think of mall right now is the idea that product knowledge is all that matters, right? And if it was 1960, you would be right because that's the only place I could have gotten product knowledge was to come to you. I hate to tell you, but things changed.

Bob Phibbs (12m 6s):
All that product knowledge is online right now. And when I'm on Facebook, somebody else's ad is telling me something and I'll believe that because it's in front of me. So this idea that product knowledge will save you just isn't true anymore. All that you can do is to be able to make your employee's day and get them the hard skill, the soft skills of getting someone to actually trust you as a trusted advisor. And if you make your employees day, they'll make the customer's day.

Bob Phibbs (12m 39s):
But the days of, you know, kind of treating people like crap and, and then saying, go sell this stuff or make your quotas or you'll be gone. And all of that, I think those days are gone and you're going to have to set. You're going to have to be able to share the rewards in some way that isn't just commission-based and really realize that everything that got you here is all table stakes. It might've been unique for you, but where you need to go is to say, what is my mission?

Bob Phibbs (13m 10s):
Why do I exist to just say, well, I exist to make a profit. That's not what a rallying cry is. Right? So, so, you know, if you think of Martin Lindstrom, he was on my podcast recently and he said, so what's the safest car company in the world. Do you know, what would you say Gary?

Gary Pageau (-):

Bob Phibbs (13m 31s):
It's actually Volvo, but Subaru would be a close second because they own it. That's kind of it. They, they own it. And you is that it, Volvo has always been safety. And in fact, they have made the claim this year that no one will die in one of their cars this year. I mean, that's pretty amazing after all the things that they apply, neared, they're known for safety. What are you known for? We're known for great deals. You know what? There's always somebody cheaper kids always.

Bob Phibbs (14m 1s):
So this idea that, you know, I can't mark things up because my customers will notice that customers are, is probably not even there. You know, the customers that are gonna notice five bucks, 10 bucks here and there, 30 online. But if you need more to be able to, to, to exist, what are the soft things besides just classes? What are the different ways that you can do virtual selling? What are the different ways you can be involving this tribe in many ways to keep them connected to your brand?

Bob Phibbs (14m 33s):
Because the store is the hub, everything comes from, but you've got to be just really clear. It's not just selling this widget. It's building this tribe of followers around you who can really support you. And that takes a lot of work. Sometimes iit's easier, when you have a salesperson, give them a sell sheet with some specs and what the spiff is, and then I'm going to town rather than try. And like you said, inspire them to share that enthusiasm with the customer. Yeah, because if they're not, if they're not enthusiastic, you know, one of my pet peeves, Gary, I have to say it.

Bob Phibbs (15m 8s):
So when I first rolled out, SalesRx, probably six years ago, we had some photography dealers on it and they took issue with me saying, I only want you to sell one add on at a time. And we can't do that. We have to get them to buy everything at once. It's like, no, you can't. I've bought several cameras and give me a laundry list. You know, I'm looking for a camera. Okay, well, you're going to need a battery and you're going to need a filter and you're going to have a memory card and then you're gonna need.... to hold it. I haven't even picked out the body yet, but you so catastrophize it to me that I go screw this too many decisions to make I'm out.

Bob Phibbs (15m 44s):
So I want to be very clear just because you've always done it, doesn't make it right. Get the camera, body locked down. That's the most important thing from there, go to the lens from there, go to your memory card, whatever it's going to be from there, have a sequence, but don't give me your laundry list because invariably, we're going to say, "okay, I'll think about that." I get home. I know I need these other seven things. Where am I going to order them from Gary?

Bob Phibbs (16m 16s):
Right? I'm not going to come back to you because you made buying difficult. You made it a stressful event. I don't want to do that. So look at your sales process. If you still arm yourself with this is the way we've always done it. God love ya. Go for it. But I can tell you, the world is littered with businesses have gone out recently because they were still stuck in the past and armed themselves with, well, "this is what we've always done" and John knows everything about cameras.

Bob Phibbs (16m 46s):
John May know everything about cameras, but he may not have a clue how to talk to me. Like he was talking to a buddy over a Starbucks, unless that guy is rewarded instead of this guy, I think you're going to have a really tough way out of 2020, because I don't need to be made to feel small or stupid or overwhelmed. I need to feel like I'm trusted and I feel better for having met you. And that's going to take a look, a retooling of the photography industry.

Gary Pageau (17m 13s):
I think that you hit on a great point. Cause I've seen that more than once where I've, I've seen articles on like Petapixel or something about like this camera store has gone out of business. And almost every time there'll be a comment in the comment section for somebody says, you know, I shop at that store and the people there were so arrogant, you know, they thought they knew everything and talked down to me. I never went back there again.

Bob Phibbs (17m 44s):
It's a big thing in photography stores. I'm telling you, you know, I, I may not be the most popular speaker at pro and I get that. I'm not here. I don't give a damn, I'm not here to be your friend. You don't call me and tell me how it sucks to be you, because I'm going to tell you what your friends aren't going to do, which is get your butt out there. You know, I make no mistake. My speaking schedule is clear now for the rest of the year. And my choice was either I sit here and wallow in it or I go out and I'd be value. And I have to talk to each of my customers and say, here's what I can do for you and develop that relationship.

Bob Phibbs (18m 18s):
Is that what you're are you willing to fight for your business? If so, then you're going to have to look at every one of your employees and say, are they adding or taking away the experience of my customers? Because just because old Joe has been there for 40 years and knows everything, doesn't it mean he's the best guy to sell to a millennial who is out there and might say, well, you know, I'm out on the protests and I want to take pictures. Well, I'm the protest. I wouldn't do that, dude. You can't say that. Right, but why not?

Bob Phibbs (18m 48s):
Because she's obviously into it. And so our goal is how do we grow the pie? How do we get more people to come to the table? Whether you're old or young, isn't the issue. Are you curious about learning something new and being curious about the person that walks in instead of just push, pushing yourself up and saying, Oh, I know everything about, you know, tripods or I know everything about filters, right? Your whole thing should be, let's just try this.

Bob Phibbs (19m 18s):
Let's see, let's see it together. Like a running buddy. Let's just see if this works instead of no, you can't. I'm the one that knows. Right? So

Gary Pageau (19m 30s):
With that in mind, you know, as, as, as you know, peop, as retailers are bringing back people from furlough, his may be actually be a chance to refresh their, their store staff. If you will.

Bob Phibbs (19m 46s):
I've said it before. You don't want to be re it's easy to unlock the store. It's harder to build trust back with your employees when your customers. And so, instead of thinking of just for going back to business, think about starting a new business, you can start a new business. You know, that employee that you don't like working with, you just think like, "Oh dear God, do I have to work with that guy?" Why do you feel that way? And have you made it known? And now is your time to say, we're starting a new business. I expect the attitude of this is our mission. This is what we're out to do.

Bob Phibbs (20m 16s):
Here's how we're going to do it. We're going to include sales training. I don't wanna hear anybody bitching about it. I want him to take it. I'm going to hold you accountable to it. Are you with me or not? "Well, I don't know." "That sounds like an awful lot." "Yeah. I'm with you." Great, dude. You're got 40 hours, but we aren't because we want to be complacent. And I'm telling you that the complacent retailers are the ones who are filing a bankruptcy chapter 11 and closing stores because they can't figure it out. Retail is easy to figure out it's called being brilliant on the basics.

Bob Phibbs (20m 47s):
It's called your niche and then over executing every single time. And you know what? That's a lot of work, Gary. And if you're in for it, you can still live the life that you want. But if you're not, and you're tired of it and you want to just sit and bitch and moan about it, no one is going to hear that story. Nobody wants to hear it. They don't want you calling them on the phone and saying how slow it is. They don't want you giving a pity party because life is too short. We've just learned that in the last three months there, aren't going to be another thousand people walking in the door next month for all we know something else is going to happen.

Bob Phibbs (21m 20s):
All we have is right now. And all you have is your four walls. So why not make an exceptional?

Gary Pageau (21m 27s):
Great. Well, listen, Bob, I appreciate your time again. How can people reach you specifically? What would be your preferred method for people to reach you?

Bob Phibbs (21m 36s):
Well, I'm not passionate about the subject of retail at all. And so, yeah, I mean, you could certainly send me an email. Bob@, or check out, which is 120 lessons on how you can actually engage a stranger, discover the shopper and yes, make the sale. And if you're willing to change, I'm the guy to help you. And I would hope that you realize that the only way that's going to happen is if you keep looking forward and finding the future and finding the hope, and if you do that, we're going to get through this just fine.

Gary Pageau (22m 8s):
So where can people see you? You said you got some, you said, you've you have my own YouTube channel.

Bob Phibbs (22m 14s):
You can start to go to YouTube, the retail doctor. You could certainly go to Facebook, the retail doctor. You could find me there, but I also have videos on the side of re You can see as well. And yeah, again, you could do a Google search. I am not a hard guy to find.

Gary Pageau (22m 30s):
Well, listen, I appreciate your time and look forward to seeing you hopefully at a future PRO event.

Bob Phibbs (22m 36s):
That sounds great. Thanks Gary.

Outro - Erin Manning (22m 40s):
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