By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

The movie version of The Wizard of Oz premiered 82 years ago. Even though it didn’t have to compete against anything as well-crafted as Howard the Duck or Madea’s Family Reunion, it was not a commercial success. People said the movie wasn’t as good as the book (and that popcorn was overpriced at 15 cents a bag).

Fourscore and two years later, Oz endures as a beloved story of self-reliance and imagination.

You, of the retail world, embody all the best qualities of the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow. It would be nearly impossible to survive the retail jungle alone, especially when you need to fight off flying monkeys, swat off angry bees, or get lulled into oblivion in a field of poppies.

Like the Lion, business owners and retail salespeople show up for work every day, bravely face the buying public and put in wicked hours, all without any guarantee of a payday.  If shoppers don’t come in (or online) or no one buys, then there’s no money to pay out. If you’re brave enough to work that way, then use that bravery to ask your shoppers the tough questions, show the merchandise that they didn’t even know existed, and ask every shopper to make a purchase today. Getting the answer “no” is better than no answer at all.

The Scarecrow had a headful of straw, but was observant, wise and philosophical. He had an innate ability to out-think any twist and turn that the Yellow Brick Road presented.  Successful retailers thrive on variables. The difference between average and great in retail is the ability to sell and satisfy the “hard-to-sell” customer.  The difference between a customer service policy and legendary customer service is the ability to provide out-of-the-box solutions to unresolvable shopper demands. Wise business owners work to take the word “no” out of their sales and service vocabularies and substitute “How about…” and “Have you considered…”

The Scarecrow may have had the smarts, but he wasn’t smart enough to know that he didn’t have all the answers. It’s the same in business: If you don’t understand websites and social media, be smart enough to hire someone who does. If you don’t know how to sell financing or accessory items, call your providers and tell them you need help. If you were born before 1980 and want to know what kind of shopping and product experience a 25-year-old expects … find a 25-year-old and ask!

As for the Tin Man, he was far from hollow, and while he didn’t have a physical heart, he had emotions like love, sadness, empathy and anger. Retailers who are on top of their game look in the windshield to ease on down the road and ignore the rearview mirror, leaving the potholes behind. Last year was one of sadness and anger for many of us. Our retail world changed yet again, and we have survived and gotten a little smarter. 

The last 365 days may have sucked away the fun from the great game of business. But now is the time to fall back in love, and to get passionate (not to be confused with angered) about recreating, building and expanding your empire. Empathetically imagine what a day is like for your co-workers, shoppers, service providers and suppliers. Chances are good that they too survived 2020 and also picked up a few scabs and scars along the way.

Point is, every day brings new challenges and dilemmas. The power and resources to resolve them may be within you, and you alone can release them. Like The Wizard of Oz, your story and your business can become a “classic” in your community when you look within, seek beyond, act courageously, and open hearts and minds.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at ghecht@sertasimmons.com.