Business Model Fixes In The Online Retail Era - Story Of Kevin Mashburn
Kevin Mashburn has a specialty of fixing old and tattered products and so he earns his living repairing luggage and other cases in his shop, Kevin's Luggage Repair in Oklahoma City. With more than 40 years of experience, he has seen the business scene in Oklahoma city changing with time.
A long time employee of Kamber’s, Kevin has learnt the luggage repair trade and started providing local services to its customers such as servicing, repairs etc. Later in 2000, he became a co-owner of the business alongside Janet Price, daughter of Milton Kamber.
In 2007, he bought the outright ownership of this 85 years old business. He hoped to grow this business and see its operations expand in future but little did he anticipate the changing retail scenario.
The rise of online market and digital shopping with its offers and perks caused the demise of local luggage and specialty shop. When large retailers connected directly to the end user, there was no need left to keep the small retailers in the chain and so they cut them loose. And so Kambers became a non feasible business model with time.
Mashburn said, “I closed Kamber's January of 2017. It was a hard decision but I should have done it years ago. I had employees that depended on me, I wanted to see Kamber's go 100 years. Financially, it almost ruined me.” He further added “The business model has really changed for retail. I can go back to the fourth quarter of 2008 and show how sales started dropping.”
With online options available, the retail stores became a place to simply examine the product before they make their purchase from online retailers. “They used to come into the store, touch it, feel it and before they were out the door they were on their phones ordering it,” Mashburn said. "Owning your own business used to be the American dream — it turned out to be the American nightmare.”
But as they say, it is all about living in today and hoping for tomorrow. Mashburn was able to find a loophole which gave him the idea of a whole new business and this is how Kevin Luggage Repairs came into picture just one month after closing the Kambers. “I enjoyed doing the luggage repairs, I enjoyed the challenge, and if these people buy this stuff on the internet, there's nobody to repair it,” Mashburn said.
He now works with luggage companies providing the repairs services for under warranty products. For example, he receives around 125 bags per month from the luggage company for maintenance and repairs.
To this changing scenarios, Mashburn says, “The local and walk-in business is starting to grow again. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn't walk in and say, ‘We were driving by, saw your sign and didn't know there was such a place.'”
Over the years, Mashburn has repaired a lot of luggage products. “I enjoy doing it. It's a service — a service to the people,” Mashburn said. “I've worked on bags (from) all over the world. I enjoy doing it, it's a challenge to see if I can fix it.”
While many small retailers like Mashburn ae struggling with the retail operation amid the rise of digital sales, he has started enjoying this little space he has created for himself in this wide space.
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