To survive as an independent retail store, you know you must lure customers away from the low prices of big-box stores. Creative offerings help you do just that. As your business ages, however, it's easy to settle into a routine and lose some of your innovative edge. Thinking about your business in terms of life cycle stages can help you avoid ruts to remain in your customers' hearts and minds.

Introduction Stage

As the name implies, the introduction is the beginning stage of any business, characterized by innovation and industry expansion. Entrepreneurs in this phase of development either introduce a new retail store model, for example a particular product mix combined with a new service, or a new direction for an existing store. Introductory stage stores should be prepared for low profits due to high development costs. Retail expert Bob Phibbs notes that business owners can often reenergize a failing business by returning the introductory stage with a new approach.

Growth Phase

Once your store catches on, it enters the growth phase. As you grow, your profits increase and customers rave about your brand. While this phase may feel like Christmas, business professor David Gerth warns that competitors begin to copy you at this point, diluting your brand and taking away some of your edge. The challenge in this stage is to keep innovating enough so you have something new and exciting for your customers each time they visit.

Maturity Phase

Once you are fully established, you have a rhythm and you've gotten pretty good at keeping the store stocked so customers can count on you. In this stage, you also have a lot of competition and your store defines your industry instead of feeling new and different. Competition even may increase to the point where your industry overexpands, leading to declining profits and reduced customer loyalty. As this happens, prices begin to drop as you and your competitors try to lure back customers with great deals. To counter this, Phibb advises innovation instead of discounting.


If you are unable to innovate sufficiently to keep your business new and fresh, it enters the last phase of the retail life cycle: decline. At this point, your business may seem out of date and boring to customers. Other retailers have caught their attention, and it's difficult to lure those customers back. Successful businesses watch the trends in their industry and neighborhood to anticipate the decline and change before customers abandon them.