See And Be Seen

Written by CMG News Contributor, Doug Carleton

Generally, the term "see and be seen" means seen by important and fashionable people. But as the pandemic begins to fade, the prisoners are storming out of their COVID-imposed jails and don't give a damn about who or what they see. They want to see things that they haven't been able to see, like national parks, beaches, mountains, people, and on and on. And as they come storming out, they don't care much about what their "be seen" looks like – right now. They want human and physical contact with the world, and they have money to spend—lots of it.

If you're a business whose products and services will fall into the consumer spending category – which makes up about 70% of the economy; hopefully, some of that stored-up money is going to come your way. One significant example is apparel. Sales of loungewear, pajamas, sweat pants and other things hidden below the Zoom screen are declining rapidly. Sales of grown-up clothes like we used to wear every day are going in the opposite direction. People want to be seen looking good, and they are willing to pay for it. So if you're somewhere in that 70%, can you take advantage of it?

Just one of the questions I would ask is, when they come into your place of business, what does their sense of arrival tell them? Think about walking up the walk to a house. If the yard looks clean and well-taken care of, it could subconsciously make you feel like the house will also be well-taken care of when you walk in. On the other hand, a somewhat sloppily-taken care of yard might preconceive the same thought about the house. A real-life example is two national grocery stores near me. The second just opened a few months ago. I shopped at the original store for a long time and was accustomed to it and never paid much attention. It was fine. But the first time I walked into the new store, the feel was dramatically different. For one, it was brighter and seemed better lit. Second, it was far less cluttered. It made me realize how cluttered the other one was – which never bothered me because I got what I needed, but now it's noticeable. It made quite an impression, and I have been back to the new one because of it. The newer grocery store felt better. How does your space feel?

And finally for today, what about your prices? Are your costs going up faster than in a long time? Are your prices keeping up? One of the hardest things for small businesses to do is raise prices because they are afraid they will lose business. But costs are going up all over the place, and consumers know it. Because of it, they know they may have to pay more for what they want. But if your product is good and your "house" feels good, and your buying experience is good, people will buy.

The inmates are loose, and they have money. Make sure that they can "be seen" in your place of business.

This blog entry is a slightly edited excerpt from Doug Carleton's 'The Daily Life Of A Small Business Owner' series. Doug was a mentor with SCORE, Startup Virginia, and Lighthouse Labs, and has 25+ years of experience in small business finance including 12 years in SBA lending. To contact Doug directly, please email him at