Havre Daily News
Mammoth retailer Wal-Mart is coming to Havre - like it or not - and local business owners who want to hear how they can not only survive but thrive in a new age of commerce here will have their chance April 26.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho-based consultant Pat McGaughey will visit Havre and offer a presentation titled “Traditional Retailers Succeeding in a Big Box World,” which he said will include strategies local businesses can use to let a wave of increased retail traffic carry them to success.
McGaughey said local businesses can only benefit from Wal-Mart's move here. The store will draw a lot of curious customers when it first opens, but it will also keep shoppers in town more often, and that can only help, he said.
“It looks scary, but ... I just tell people how to learn to ride this tsunami,” McGaughey said Thursday. “Wal-Mart's going to keep the cars here. Wal-Mart is going to train (shoppers) to stay in town. You can't tell me that's going to hurt your town.”
He added: “I want to talk to people who want to stay in business. Most of the people I know that go out of business when Wal-Mart comes into town are the ones who are looking for a reason for going out of business.”
Havre Area Chamber of Commerce president Tom Rygg said the organization is bringing McGaughey to Havre as part of its mission to assist the business community.
“Wal-Mart is a big company and they have a lot to offer their customers, and they also provide competition,” Rygg said Thursday.
“I just think it's a really good thing to have a person like Pat come in,” he said. “We in Havre aren't used to dealing with a big-box retailer. I think it's a great opportunity for our local businesses. I encourage people to take advantage of it.”
McGaughey said he does not work for Wal-Mart but has studied the big-box chain extensively. He said he does not believe negative media hype about the company. He hasn't yet seen “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” a documentary film shown in Havre last month that in part tells the story of small-business owners who had to shutter their stores when the chain moved to town.
“On the face of it, I don't believe it,” he said of the movie. He noted that there are still plenty of small businesses in towns across the country that have Wal-Mart or another big-box store, such as Target or Costco. McGaughey first experienced the big-box retail revolution as a small-business owner in an Oregon community of about 10,000 people. A music store owner, he saw Payless Drug open in town, and the variety store also offered records and tapes.
“I learned a lot by being a small retailer and working with the larger retailers in my community,” McGaughey said. “I learned years ago that if someone is creating a big wave of traffic, I better become a world-class server.”
He said his record sales increased an average of 28 percent when Payless ran advertisements for music sales. His store had a more eclectic collection of offerings, and he said Payless' circulars would get local shoppers in the mood to go out and buy music.
He also took advantage of Payless' strategies for displaying products, and said local retailers can do the same with Wal-Mart.
“You will now have the most professional merchandiser in the world” to learn from, he said.
Wal-Mart has done all of the studies to analyze how to entice shoppers to buy products. Why shouldn't local business owners take advantage of that knowledge? He said merchants should spend time in the store to learn more.
McGaughey is a past president of the Idaho Association of Chambers of Commerce and served as president and host of the Northwest Chamber Leaders Conference. As a former chamber president, he worked with retailers in his own town during the advent of big boxes. He said he's been working with small-business survival for 20 years. In 2000, he began his career as a consultant. He gives more than 60 presentations across the country each year.
Tickets for the event will soon be available at the chamber office. For members, the cost is $30 per person or $150 for six people. For nonmembers, tickets are priced at $35 a person and $180 for groups of six.
The tickets cover the big-box presentation and another presentation by McGaughey titled “Selling and Marketing.” That presentation will be held from 7 to 9 a.m. at the Duck Inn Olympic Room on April 26. The big-box presentation will be held in the Montana State University-Northern Student Union Building from 6:30 to 9 p.m.