Archives for posts with tag: Niche

I wrote in a recent post about how folk don’t tend to use handkerchiefs much any more. I was reminded of this recently when I went up to Dublin for a meeting. I had over an hour to kill before my meeting in the heart of the shopping district, and I’d forgotten to bring one of the umpteen handkerchiefs in my bedside drawer, so I decided to spend a small part of the hour fixing the problem.

My brief was simple: buy one funky-patterned hanky. Easy.

I went into a very reputable department store full of snazzy concessions. It was the closest store and the best fit I felt. After looking around in vain, I asked a salesman, who, after a bit of confusion between a hanky and a pocket square – a new term for me, the posh bit of silk that sits in your outside breast pocket – said they didn’t sell hankies. At all.

He sent me across the road to a department store that sold them, he said. I went to it and it sold two types, in packs of 7 only. Not singles, 7 or nothing. I then went to 4 other stores and the odd thing I noticed was that at each store the staff weren’t sure where the hankies were; a sure sign that they don’t flog many of them. What do folk use instead? Also, the hankies were all super dull designs, or plain white, and in large packs.

With about 10 minutes left, I realised I shouldn’t have done this on a whim. I should have planned it, googled ‘single funky handkerchiefs Dublin’, and made a bee-line for the right place.

In the end, with 10 minutes to spare, good old M&S came through for me with packs of 3 relatively funky hankies. Not a great fit to my requirements, but the best of a bad lot.

I wonder if I should open a shop for custom single hankies. Nah, folk don’t use them any more.

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In this era of the long tail, it’s never been more easy to find, create, develop and service a niche market.

A niche is a small place that you can defend and protect from bigger competition who either can’t fit in the niche themselves or lever you out of it. Aside from the risk of the long tail niche – there is a gap in the market but is there a market in the gap? – I was reminded of how protectable a niche can be when walking on the beach with family yesterday.

We were collecting empty shells, and on several occasions we saw some limpets sitting in the cracks between rocks. These weren’t limpets stuck to the rocks in the normal way. They were empty shells with their edges were simply resting – or so we thought – between the folds of rocks. The spaces under them were not deep and impenetrable, they were shallow, maybe a centimetre or so of a recess. When we tried to pick them up, however, we couldn’t move them, even by levering a finger and a thumb under the entire limpet.

Even though they appeared to be resting on the rocks, the force of the storms from the last few nights had wedged them in, hard and fast. Added to that, the conical structure of the limpet was such that even though only a few millimetres of the limpet edge were touching the rocks on two sides, it could withstand any human attempt to remove it in one piece.

When we find the perfect niche, and we’re set up the right way, we can be impossible to dislodge.