Weathering the Retail Storm

As the landscape of retail changes, some store owners are finding new keys to retail success and ways to reach their customers. One of those stores is ElectricLand, based in Sidney, Montana. When Raleigh Peck took over the little electronics store in 2000, it was a Radio Shack. Now it’s a flourishing independent retailer.

We spoke to Peck about some of the factors contributing to their sustained success, as well as what advice he has for other store owners who might be struggling to adjust to a changing retail environment.

Petra: Have you seen much impact from the major ecommerce sites outside of the general industry trend? Has Amazon hit hard out there?

Raleigh Peck: Oh yeah. Yeah, every time the FedEx or UPS truck comes in and we go out to help them unload, we see all those Amazon boxes in there. You know, we’ve always been a Sony direct dealer. When I bought the store they were a fifteen-year Sony direct dealer. You see the trucks come in and see a Sony TV in there and you say “Oh, is that one for us?” “No, that one’s going direct to somebody’s house.”

P: You carry the general product spectrum that Radio Shacks used to carry. What other stuff do you carry that people might not normally think of?

RP: Being that it’s a very small area, we’re very far from the nearest town. Next town of any size is 50 miles. It could be literally hundreds of miles to find another place that has an electronics store. Hundreds of miles—and so we carry everything. I mean, I’ve got car stereo, home theater, cell phones. We’re a Verizon Wireless agent. We do DIRECTV, we do Dish Network. Our circumstance is really kind of our savior right at the moment during the collapse of retail. We do fire alarm systems, custom homes, home automation. Yeah, we do just about anything.

Our local music store…owner packed up and moved out. So I put in band supplies—reeds, valve oil, guitar strings, a lot of other stuff. It does OK. There’s a lot of schools around; they gotta have that.

Get anything you can get your hands on. The hardest part is letting people know you have all these different things.

P: Did you offer services in the past?

RP: Always to a point, yeah. But right at the collapse of the oil boom, that’s when our services and commercial installs just exploded. We do everything low voltage. I mean, we’ve done part of a school, we did a fire hall, we’re just trying to finish up a General Motors dealership where we did all the camera work, all the security system, wireless bridge from there back a mile to the body shop that’s been linked up, miles and miles and miles of CAT-5 network cable…all this stuff in there. The IT closets—built those out. Custom homes—we put a rack down somewhere and feed the whole house with all the satellite receivers, amplifiers, whole home audio.

P: What’s been the key or keys for you with running a successful business when a lot of other former Radio Shack stores struggled?

RP: Diversity. When something falls through, you’ve got something else going on. I believe the big thing that killed Radio Shack was their commitment to cellular phones. They put all their eggs in that cellular basket, and the rest of the business suffered. They were focused on the money in cellular and that fell apart. And they went bankrupt.

P: What advice would you give to others in brick and mortar retail?

RP: Diversify. Get your hands in on as much stuff as you can, get reliable distributors that if you have issues you can go to, and get your support team behind you. I know there’s a lot of dealers where one of their biggest suppliers is Amazon. They’re buying from Amazon and reselling…they don’t have any support. You want to know more about this product, you gotta figure it out.

And keep your store looking as nice and neat as possible. First impressions are everything. It’s gotta be appealing and they’ve gotta see the coolest stuff right there.

P: What makes Petra a good partner for businesses in your industry?

RP: Petra is one of, if not the primary, vendor we use most months. The product mix is outstanding and the support we receive is second to none. Our specialist Fred Tortell is super friendly and fun to deal with.

Keys to Retail Success

If you want to keep your business going strong, make sure you’ve got multiple avenues of revenue. Diversification will keep your business healthy and strong, no matter what’s happening.

Thanks to Raleigh Peck for agreeing to be interviewed for this story.