150 years and going strong. But almost did not make it.

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On November 6th the Philadelphia Inquirer had a story about one of the oldest stores in the USA, the Weitzenkorn’s Mens Clothing store in Pottstown, PA. The store has been in business for over 150 years. Quite an achievement considering the changes in the retail landscape with large box stores, discount offerings, technology changes, clothing trends, etc. These changes in addition to the economic decline of the Pottstown area make it almost a miracle.

The owners were able to overcome all these changes but it was not easy. The arrival of on-line shopping was a hurdle that proved more difficult and ownership contemplated closing the store after the current generation of ownership. The owner’s son saved the day by helping set up an internet presence, including an internet store. Now about 30 percent of sales come over the internet.

The story grabbed my attention since it highlights problems of smaller businesses: How to stay relevant with the changing market place and new technologies? They had been able to read and adjust to the clothing trends very well.  The store has a few things going for it. 1. Quality products with personal attention 2. A broad range of offerings. All this can be translated to the internet but the internet needs to be embraced.  It also requires a different approach and set of skills.  Without the skills of the younger generation it would not have happened. The son was able to make the internet presence matches the store brand and clearly has become a success.

Ownership was hesitant to make the move to the internet but I wonder if they would have done it without a family member.

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