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Small Businesses' Takeaway From 2008

The drugstore chains have also been expanding their selection of food (a major growth category), while Walgreens is testing a café concept aimed at stealing business away from Starbucks (SBUX - Get Report) and Dunkin' Donuts.

You can't be everything to everyone, but logical outgrowths of your core business can pay off big.

4. Tell a good story: This isn't the best time to be in the luxury-goods business. After all, iconic brands from Tiffany & Co. (TIF) to Neiman Marcus (NMGA) saw sales drop this fall. So how did Ralph Lauren (RL) wind up with a 26% increase in net income over the past six months, compared to the same period last year? Increased international sales, probably due in part to the boost the company got from outfitting the U.S. Olympic Team.

But the long-term secret to Ralph Lauren's success is its story and image, which it sells as much as clothing and accessories. People around the world associate the brand with a particular lifestyle, and it's one they want to be a part of.

Does your brand have a strong image? A story that resonates? If not, use these slow days at the end of the year to brainstorm. You'll have to be ready to sell yourself all over again in 2009.

Elizabeth Blackwell is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She is the author of Frommer's Chicago guidebook, and writes for the Wall Street Journal, Chicago, and other national magazines.
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LIN $25.00 0.00%
BKS $23.82 0.46%
BBBY $77.40 1.30%
MCD $97.98 0.10%
SBUX $95.35 -0.66%


DOW 17,876.38 -99.93 -0.56%
S&P 500 2,078.29 -7.95 -0.38%
NASDAQ 4,925.8950 -21.5460 -0.44%

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